Edwin Charles: Keys to the Drood Mystery

I am indebted to Messrs. Chapman and Hall for their courteous permission to use the quotations
I have made from " The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

Whatever value may be attached to my humble attempt to solve the problem of Dickens's unfinished masterpiece, I shall feel that my effort has not been wholly in vain, if readers are thereby led to the study of the book itself, which, apart from the interest created by its premature ending, possesses all the charm and power of the great author.

E. C.




PREFACE

A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and as this little book is written both for the student who is steeped in Dicken­sian lore and for the man who may have read neither " The Mystery of Edwin Drood" nor any of the many solutions of it which have appeared since the great author's death, I have ventured to include in my little treatise not only a synopsis of the story itself, but also a short account of the principal points in some of the more prominent of the suggested termina­tions.

By the sudden death of the author, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" was brought to an abrupt conclusion at a most tantalizingly interesting point, where it seemed as if some of the loose threads of the plot were about to be gathered together. And however satisfactory any solution may appear to writer or reader, however rever­ently the attempt at such solution may be approached, however much one may sur­round oneself with the Dickens atmosphere in order to try to discover what, under a given set of circumstances, Dickens might have done, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" must always remain a mystery, buried under that plain slab in Westminster Abbey.

Dickens died while he was writing this book, and the story itself reeks of the charnel house and the tomb, of coffins, of crypts, of epitaphs, of monumental masons, and of the finding of the remains of the dead-and-gone potentates of the Church. That Dickens was a believer in the idea that forebodings precede death we can see from the following words in "Martin Chuzzlewit":—

"It may be (as it has been) that a shadowy veil was dropping round him, closing out all thoughts but the presenti­ment and vague foreknowledge of impend­ing doom. If there be fluids, as we know there are, which, conscious of a coming wind, or rain, or frost, will shrink and strive to hide themselves in their glass arteries, may not that subtle liquor of the blood perceive by properties within itself that hands are raised to waste and spill it?"

In reading this unfinished novel I have often wondered whether Dickens had any foreshadowing of his oncoming death, and whether that knowledge, consciously or unconsciously, tinged and influenced his latest work.

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" has for close upon thirty-seven years given rise to controversy, and this may be said to have reached high-water mark with the advent of Mr. Comyns Carr's drama upon the subject which has recently been produced so effectively by Mr. Tree. In writing of Mr. Carr's play, it would be quite unfair to bring it to the strict test of a meta­physical solution.

Granted that the aim of the dramatist must be to create a dramatic effect, and that he must first and always ask himself how to make an effective play, and how to bring down the curtain on his situations with the best results to his audience, I cannot accept the claim that is made for the play that it solves the problems set by Dickens's unfinished story in the way which indications taken collectively seem to suggest. One of the most acute points in this controversy was made by Mr. Beerbohm Tree, who, in the course of an inter­view, asked how it could be maintained that Dickens intended that Edwin Drood should be murdered by Jasper when it is seen that he used as a heading to one of his chapters "When Shall These Three Meet Again?" With characteristic humour Mr. Tree argued that Dickens could not have meant that the three should meet here­after inasmuch as Jasper, being a mur­derer—if he did kill Edwin Drood—could not be supposed to meet his victim and his victim's friend in heaven. So Mr. Tree argued by induction that Dickens must have meant that the three should meet again on earth and that, therefore, Edwin Drood was not murdered.

To this a reply, no less acute, and, I think, much more profound, was suggested to me by Mr. Hall Caine, who has been so kind as to discuss my various theories with me, and, I am pleased to add, to agree with them in the main. He said: "Has Mr. Tree reflected upon the significant source of the heading to the dinner-party chapter—' When Shall These Three Meet Again?'? If so, has it occurred to him that Dickens might have been thinking that his own story offered a startling parallel development to the story of Macbeth? Macbeth (Jasper) murders Duncan, his relative and guest (Edwin Drood), and succeeds in throwing suspicion on Malcolm (Neville Landless), who flies to England, and all but a few believe in his guilt. Why does Macbeth murder Duncan? To secure the crown. Why does Jasper wish to kill Edwin? To secure Rosa Bud. On what ground does Macbeth try to fix the guilt on Malcolm? On the ground that Malcolm aimed at the Sovereignty. On what ground does Jasper try to fix the murder on Neville? On the ground that he aimed at the love of Rosa. Depend upon it, the mind of Dickens was consciously revolving around the same complication of plot as that of Shakespeare in Macbeth, and hence the quotation. "To my mind," continued Mr. Hall Caine, " if anything were required to establish the theory that Jasper murders Edwin Drood, it is supplied by the heading of that chapter."

When shall we three meet again, In thnnder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly'e done, When the battle's lost and won: That will be ere the set of sun.

As the reader will see, I have further elaborated this remarkable point in a later section of my book.

But apart from the question of murder or no murder, apart from the equally vexed question as to who Datchery was, I am dissatisfied with the published solutions because no effort is made in any one of them to discover the artistic motive which actuated Dickens in writing this story, what great spiritual significance he intended the work to convey. With the ripened experience of over thirty years since he first taught the lesson conveyed in "Oliver Twist," I can scarcely believe that his only object in writing " Edwin Drood " was to give us an intricate plot. And in this connection I cannot do better than quote the words of Mr. Hall Caine when discussing that important point: "Any third-rate intellect might manufacture a mystery much better than Dickens. But Dickens, who had an intellect of the first order, could do better than manufacture a mystery; he could make a motive—a great human motive."

I am grateful indeed to Mr. Hall Caine for expressing to me so shortly and succinctly what I so strongly feel; and it is because of the absence of any attempt heretofore to discover that high human motive and that spiritual significance so characteristic of Dickens's former works that I have ventured to publish this little book.

EDWIN CHARLES.
January, 1908.

PART I

Chapter I

Synopsis of the Story of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"

John Jasper is the choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral. He bears an excellent character, and is on the best of terms with the Dean and the Minor Canon, the Rev. Septimus Crisparkle. But he is the secret victim of the opium habit and is a dangerously unprincipled man. In a truly characteristic way Dickens, in the opening of the book, draws a sharp contrast showing the man's double life. In the first place, Jasper is discovered in a filthy opium den in the lowest part of the East End of London recovering from an opium trance, and a few hours later he is in his seat in the choir-stalls of Cloisterham Cathedral intoning the responses at the evening service.

That evening his nephew, Edwin Drood, who is also his ward, pays him a visit. Jasper has impressed everybody in Cloisterham with the earnestness and reality of his affection for his nephew, who not only believes thoroughly in his uncle's love for him, but deeply loves him in return. Edwin has been trained as a civil engineer and is shortly going to Egypt in pursuance of his career, but not, however, until he is married to Rosa Bud, who is at school in Cloisterham, and to whom he is affianced in accordance with the terms of the wills of their respective fathers. They are not in love; but of the undoubted liking which they show for each other and of the patronizing air of proprietorship which, boy-like, Edwin exhibits when talking of Rosa to Jasper, Dickens makes effective use. Jasper has conceived an all-powerful passion for Rosa, which is the more master­ful because it is necessarily secret, although by some mesmeric means Rosa herself is aware of its existence and is frightened by it.

It is apparent in a subsequent chapter that, at the very opening of the book, Jasper has made up his mind to get rid of his nephew, but he does not yet see how to do so with safety from detection. Chance comes to his aid. The Rev. Septimus Crisparkle is about to receive under his roof as a pupil a young man named Neville Landless, whose twin sister, Helena Land­less, is also coming to Cloisterham to become a pupil at the seminary where Rosa is being educated. Neville and Helena Landless have a wonderful affection for each other. They have been brought up by a cruel and harsh stepfather in Ceylon, and have suffered much hardship and privation at his hands. At a dinner-party given by Mr. Crisparkle, at which all the young people are brought together, the first meshes of the plot are woven, for Jasper sees that not only is Neville smitten by the piquant beauty of Rosa, but that he (Neville) is secretly galled and irritated by Edwin's assumption of proprietorship in her. This enmity, for his own purposes, he determines to foster. He invites the two young men, who have come dangerously near to a quarrel already, to his rooms, and, under the pretense of making them drink a friendly glass of wine together, he further fans the flame of discord, and a wild scene ensues. The next day all Cloisterham, by the underhand work of Jasper, knows of the quarrel, and is convinced that Neville is a threatening, passionate, dangerous young man, and Cloisterham continues in this frame of mind notwithstanding the fact that, through the good offices of Mr. Crisparkle, reconciliation takes place.

Having safely accomplished the first part of his plan, Jasper now invites Neville and Edwin to dine with him on Christmas Eve, ostensibly to cement and strengthen the friendship of the two boys. In the mean­time chance has further favored him, for, during an interview which he has with Mr. Sapsea on the subject of the epitaph which is to be placed on the tomb of that gentle­man's wife, he sees the key of the Sapsea vault handed to Durdles, a stone-mason, who is always more or less in a drink-bemuddled state; he improves his acquaint­ance with Durdles to the extent of being shown over the crypt and tower of the cathedral one midnight, and utilizes that occasion to drug Durdles, with the obvious intention of possessing himself temporarily of the key of the Sapsea vault; so that, by the time Christmas Eve arrives, everything is ready for the disappearance of his nephew and for suspicion to fall upon Neville.

Previous to coming down to this dinner Edwin has called upon Mr. Grewgious (Rosa's guardian) in London, who hands him a ring of rubies and diamonds which had been taken from the finger of Rosa's dead mother. This ring is given to Edwin with the solemn injunction that it is only to be placed by him on Rosa's finger if the marriage is definitely decided upon between them.

On arriving at Cloisterham Edwin has a long talk with Rosa—a talk which is in Dickens' best style and which forms one of the sweetest and most touching incidents in the book. At this interview Rosa and he agree that they are unfitted by temperament to marry each other and that henceforth they will be but brother and sister. So Edwin says nothing about the ring and arranges that Rosa shall ask Grewgious to come down and see her, that she shall tell him (Grewgious) of the broken engagement, and that he shall communicate it to Jasper. There is a farewell kiss and they part for ever as lovers. That kiss is seen by Jasper, and he, not knowing the significance of it, is strengthened in his determination to make away with his nephew so that the coast may be clear to win Rosa for himself.

Previous to the Christmas Eve dinner Edwin accosts an old woman who appears to be in much distress. He gives her money, and in return for his kindness she tells him that he ought to be thankful that his name is not Ned, as it is a threatened name—a dangerous name just now. This woman is the keeper of the opium den which Jasper visits, and she has come down to Cloisterham to find him, but has not succeeded in so doing. Edwin is much distressed by this mystic intelligence. He is known by the name of Ned to one person at all events, and that person is his uncle Jasper. He makes up his mind to mention this matter to his uncle on the morning after the dinner-party, his reason for not doing so at once being that he does not wish to spoil the evening's festivities. So, as arranged, he dines with his uncle and Neville. It is a stormy night, and, at a late hour, the two boys, apparently on the best terms of friendship, leave Jasper's lodgings to go down to the river to look at the action of the wind upon the water. Edwin is never seen again.

Early next morning, as a group of people are looking at some damage which the storm has wrought upon the cathedral tower, Jasper rushes up to Mr. Crisparkle's house and wildly demands to know where his nephew is.

The distrust and suspicion of Neville which Jasper has so sedulously sown in people's minds recur at once when Neville is found to have started early that morning on a walking tour. He is followed and brought back. Although everybody believes him guilty of a murder, although suspicion is heightened by the finding of Edwin's only known articles of jewellery—a watch and chain and scarfpin—in the river where admittedly the two were together at midnight, no body is found; and, as there is no direct evidence against him, Neville is allowed to depart for London, free, but under a dark cloud of suspicion, only implicitly believed in by his sister and Mr. Crisparkle.

But a heavy blow awaits Jasper, for next day Mr. Grewgious calls upon him and communicates to him the fact, which Edwin, out of loving tenderness for his feelings had hidden, that the affianced young people had, at their last meeting, parted for ever as lovers. The reader is then led to believe that Jasper is so overcome by this intelligence, as showing the futility of his designs against his nephew, that he has a fit. Some time after this occurrence he makes an open avowal of his love to Rosa, accompanied by dark and mysterious hints as to the dreadful consequences which may ensue if she does not accept him. In alarm she goes to London to Grewgious' chambers in Staple Inn for protection. She makes a long stay in London, and becomes acquainted with Lieutenant Tartar, and the book suggests an almost immediate mutual attraction between them. Helena Landless also goes to London to comfort and console her brother, who has rooms in Staple Inn, where Mr. Crisparkle, who is still superintending his studies, is a frequent visitor; and all are suspicious of Jasper.

A new character is now introduced in the person of Dick Datchery, who is obviously a detective having suspicions of Jasper. He settles in Cloisterham and takes a lodging in gloomy rooms facing the staircase which leads to Jasper's lodgings. Jasper again pays a visit to the East End opium den, and while in an opium trance makes certain remarks to the hag who keeps it of a highly-implicating character. She follows him to Cloisterham, and, learning from Datchery that he (Jasper) will be singing in the cathedral next morning, stays overnight and goes to early morning service, where Datchery sees her behind the shelter of a pillar, shaking her fists at Jasper with a malignant expression of countenance. It is at this point that the work stops.

Thus the book leaves us stranded at a most interesting crisis, and the points to be elucidated may be shortly summed up by the following interrogations:—

1. Was Edwin Drood murdered?
2. Who was his murderer?
3. How was the murder committed?
4. Where was the body hidden?
5. Who was Datchery?
6. If Jasper committed the murder, how was the crime brought home to him?
7. How was he made to disclose it?
8. What was to be the final evolution of the story?

Perhaps before attempting to deal with these questions I should give my readers some short account of previous solutions.


Chapter II

Some Of The Salient Points In Previous Solutions

There have been many attempts to solve Dickens's unfinished mystery, the first being a burlesque by Mr. R. H. Newell, writing as "Orpheus C. Kerr," in 1870, entitled "The Cloven Foot." This was an Ameri-can adaptation, of which an English edition was printed the following year under the title of "The Mystery of Mr. E. Drood." There is one point in connection with this burlesque which is worthy of serious attention, for the author suggests that Jasper (whom he calls "Bumstead") spirited away his nephew while under the influence of a narcotic. This solution does not involve the murder of Edwin, who subsequently returns. In fact, the key of this solution is found in Chapter III of "Edwin Drood": "If I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again before I remember where."

In 1872 another American solution appeared entitled "John Jasper's Secret," the chief feature of which is that Jasper, whilst wandering over the cathedral, finds that the edifice is doubly walled, there being a space between the two erections. Into this apparently safe hiding-place he casts the body of his strangled nephew. But he is only half-strangled and is rescued by Durdles. An excellent point in this solution is a visit by Helena Landless, disguised as a boy, to the opium den, where, she administers a certain mixture to Jasper: which makes him disclose his secret.

With a production, dated 1873, from the village of Brattleborough, Vermont, U.S.A., purporting to be written "By the Spirit Pen of Charles Dickens through a Medium," I will not trouble to deal. I reverence Dickens's memory too much to trouble my readers with that which I conceive to be irreverent.

In the year 1878 a lady, writing under the name "Gillan Vase," produced a solution entitled "A Great Mystery Solved," of which a critic, writing in the Examiner of October 5th, 1878, said that he preferred to call it "A Great Work Spoiled." In this work the author is in good company, inasmuch as she makes Drood escape the doom his uncle has assigned to him. But she puts forward one startlingly original suggestion: The body of Mrs. Sapsea is taken from its coffin and buried in quicklime, and the body of Edwin Drood is put into her coffin. Very ingenious! For who would dream of looking in a coffin supposed to contain the body of a legitimately-buried person for the body of a murdered person ?

There now remain four solutions, which have attracted so much general attention that it is necessary I should give some particular attention to the points raised in each. Taking them in order of date of publication they are as follows:—

  1. "Watched by the Dead: A Loving Study of Dickens's Half-told Tale." By Richard A. Proctor (1887).
  2. "Clues to Dickens's Mystery of Edwin Drood." By J. Cuming Walters (1905).
  3. "The Puzzle of Dickens's Last Plot." By Andrew Lang (1905).
  4. "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." A Drama in Four Acts. By J. Comyns Carr (1907).

Mr. Proctor's Solution.

The point of this solution is that Drood does not meet his death at the hands of his uncle, but that he reappears disguised as Datchery. This theory is based upon three grounds, namely: — (1) The curious heading to Chapter XIV.: "When shall these three meet again?" (2) The general conduct of Datchery. (3) The strange behavior of Grewgious after the disappearance of Edwin. Mr. Proctor argues that Grew­gious possesses some particular informa­tion — some inner knowledge of an attempt at a crime, which he could only derive from Drood himself. He was the one person, save Jasper, who could tell the true story of the night of the dinner-party. To prove that Drood is Datchery, Mr. Proctor offers comparisons in considerable detail and quotes the various passages in which the two are referred to.

With great dramatic force he makes Jasper revisit the vault where he thinks the body of Edwin is, because he learns of the existence of the betrothal ring, which may afford a fatal clue to his crime. On opening the vault he is struck with horror to see by the light of his lantern his nephew sternly confronting him. He flies up the winding stair of the cathedral tower pursued by Landless, Tartar, Drood, and Crisparkle; a struggle ensues on reaching the top, in the course of which Neville is killed and Jasper is captured and cast into prison, where he learns, to his dismay, that, while he has supposed himself to be per­fectly secure, his every movement has been watched and noted by one whom he had thought to be dead.

Mr. Cuming Walters' Solution

The most remarkable portion of this admirably-presented solution lies in the fact that Mr. Walters makes Helena Landless enact the role of Datchery. He argues with considerable force that Helena has a double motive in taking an active part in bringing the crime home to Jasper—the protection of Rosa and the vindication of her brother's good name. So he disguises her in male attire and sends her to Cloisterham to keep an unsuspecting watch over Jasper. She is successful in getting together certain evidence, and contrives to lure Jasper to the scene of his crime, where he makes Neville receive his death-blow at the hands of Jasper whilst protecting his sister. It should be added that Mr. Walters accepts the theory that Edwin is really slain by Jasper.

Mr. Andrew Lang's Solution

This is in effect a confirmation and endorsement of Mr. Proctor's theory, and is in direct opposition to that of Mr. Walters'. Mr. Lang, however, differs from Mr. Proctor in one important detail, for he ascribes the curious conduct of Grewgious towards Jasper after the disappearance not to any communication made by Drood, but to the fact of some communication made to him (Grewgious) by Helena Landless. He also makes the telling of the incident of the broken engagement a test of Jasper's guilt or innocence, and the latter's behavior and appearance on receipt of the intelli­gence confirm his worst suspicions.

Mr. J. Comyns Carr's Drama

In this play, up to a point Dickens has been faithfully followed, so far as stage necessities allow. We see Jasper first in the London opium den, we follow him to Cloisterham, we witness his meeting with Edwin, Rosa, Helena, and Neville Landless, and other well-known characters. In the earlier passages of the play there can, indeed, be traced no very marked divergence from the lines of the novel.

It is on the disappearance of Edwin that we are confronted with a fresh departure. We are now face to face with the all-important question—in what manner has Mr. Carr developed the story? It was at the memorable dinner-party at Jasper's rooms on Christmas Eve that Edwin as a living factor dropped out of the action in Dickens's story. It is here that Mr. Carr takes up the threads of the severed intrigue, using, however, the material—or rather the suggested material—which Dickens himself supplied in the earlier portions of the tale. The two young men, instead of shaking hands amicably over their past differences, quarrel again even more bitterly. Nevertheless, at Jasper's instigation, they make their way together to the river to watch the effect of the storm raging without.

Left alone, Jasper is visited by Crisparkle, who on his way home calls for Landless, and learns that his pupil has already left. Crisparkle goes away, and a moment later Edwin returns, a little over­excited, and eager for bed, to which presently he betakes himself. And here Mr. Carr takes the story entirely into his own hands. Jasper we know to be a victim to the opium drug. That he is determined to do away with Edwin we are also aware. But before the deed is accomplished certain incriminating articles must be removed; the watch and chain, for instance, the scarf-pin, upon which the quicklime would have no corroding influence. To Edwin's room Jasper steals, returning with these things, which he hides in his desk. Now for the deed which shall sweep his rival out of his path and secure Rosa Bud for himself. There is an interruption, however, in the shape of a knock at the door, and behold the old hag, keeper of the opium den, enters. To Jasper her appearance is as a deliverance. There shall be no murder to-night. Once more he seeks relief from the poisonous drug, and then in a dream he enacts, step by step, the crime he was on the point of consummating, the contem­plated murder of Edwin.

In the middle of the horrible scene Edwin awakes. He realizes the awful truth. His uncle hates him, would do him to death. Flight is the only expedient open to him, so he goes off noiselessly, silently, telling no one of his purpose. Thus it is that Jasper awakens next morning to the conviction forced on him by the disappear­ance of Edwin that in reality he had strangled his nephew and carried his body to the crypt. No dream this, evidently, but absolute fact! Suspicion falls on Neville, as in the book, but proof of his guilt not being forthcoming he is released. Here Grewgious comes into unexpected pro­minence. His suspicions regarding Jasper are awakened. He it is who is able to say that Edwin bore upon him, in addition to the watch, chain, and pin, a ring—the ring which was to be the token of his betrothal to Rosa, which even quicklime could not destroy.

Alarmed, Jasper hurries down to the crypt, anxious to secure what he believes to be the only evidence that can betray him. Thither he is preceded by Grewgious, in whose pocket is the ring, returned to him by Edwin on the night previous to his flight, to show that he and Rosa had broken off their engagement. Jasper, caught in the trap, and still firm in the belief that he murdered his nephew, makes confession in the presence of all, and in the last act we find him in the infirmary of the county gaol. This is the moment chosen by the dramatist for Edwin's reappearance. The shock occasioned by the event precipitates the death of Jasper, who imagines he gazes upon his nephew's ghost. Happily, his reason momentarily returns, and joining Edwin's and Rosa's hands he sinks quietly to rest.

Thus in these solutions, for the accounts of all of which, excepting the last, I am much indebted to an article in " The Dickensian" of Sep­tember, October, and November, 1905, by Mr. George F. Gadd, entitled "The History of a Mystery—a Review of the Solutions to Edwin Drood," all of them, with one exception, make Drood return, that exception being the solution of Mr. J. Cuming Walters, who makes Helena Landless take the part of Datchery.


PART II

Chapter I

Reasons for Disagreeing with Previous Solutions

I think no solution of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" can be either satisfactory or convincing which ignores not only the pointed and significant indications in the book itself that Drood is murdered by Jasper, but also the explicit narrative of the plot as unfolded by so intimate a friend of Dickens as John Forster; the conversa­tion with Luke Fildes as to the use to which the black scarf worn by Jasper on the day of the dinner-party was to be put, and the request of the author to this artist to make a sketch of the condemned cell at Maidstone.

First let us look at the letter of Mr. Forster, which describes Dickens's idea of the plot. "The story was to be that of the murder of a nephew by his uncle, the originality of which was to consist in the review of the murderer's career by himself at the close. … The last chapters were to be written in the condemned cell, to which his wickedness, all elaborately elicited from him as if told of another, had brought him. Discovery by the murderer of the utter needlessness of the murder for its object was to follow hard upon com­mission of the deed; but all discovery of the murder was to be baffled till towards the close, when, by means of a gold ring which had resisted the corrosive effects of the lime into which he had thrown the body, not only the person murdered was to be identified, but the locality of the crime and the man who committed it. ... Rosa was to marry Tartar, and Crisparkle the sister of Land­less, who was himself to have perished in assisting Tartar finally to unmask and seize the murderer."

Nothing can be more conclusive than that, at any rate, at the commencement; Dickens intended that Jasper was to murder his nephew. "True," say those who argue that the murder was only committed in thought or that the victim was only half-strangled; "but of all novelists Dickens was the last man to be hide-bound to a preconceived plot." That will be cheerfully conceded by all. But if in the act of writing the book we find him confiding to his artist, Mr. (now Sir) Luke Fildes, a man of the highest character, whose word anyone would cheer­fully accept without hesitation, that he intends Jasper to strangle Edwin with a black scarf, have we not a full answer to the suggestion that Dickens changed his mind? Who can read the following letter from Sir Luke Fildes, written by him to the "Times" on October 27th, 1905, and have any doubts remaining as to Dickens's intentions?

"The 'hints he dropped' to me, his sole illustrator—for Charles Collins, his son-in-law, only designed the green cover for the monthly parts, and Collins told me he did not in the least know the significance of the various groups in the design; that they were drawn from instructions personally given by Charles Dickens and not from any text— these 'hints' to me were the outcome of a request of mine that he would explain some matters, the meaning of which I could not comprehend and which were for me, his illustrator, embarrassingly hidden.

"I instanced in the printers' rough proof of the monthly part sent to me to illustrate where he particularly described John Jasper as wearing a neckerchief of such dimensions as to go twice around his neck; I called his attention to the circumstance that I had previously dressed Jasper as wearing a little black tie once round the neck, and I asked him if he had any special reasons for the alteration of Jasper's attire, and, if so, I submitted I ought to know. He, Dickens, appeared for a moment to be disconcerted by my remark, and said some­thing meaning he was afraid he was ' getting on too fast' and revealing more than he meant at that early stage, and after a short silence, cogitating, he suddenly said, 'Can you keep a secret?' I assured him he could rely on me. He then said, ' I must have the double necktie! It is necessary, for Jasper strangles Edwin Drood with it."

Then there is the instruction later on by Dickens to Luke Fildes to make a sketch of the condemned cell in Maidstone Jail.

Maidstone being the assize town and its jail the execution place for Rochester (Cloisterham). This in itself is a striking proof of the accuracy of Forster's outline and a proof of the fact that Dickens adhered, as far as the story goes, to his first intentions; so that, whatever may have been the intended ultimate mystery of Edwin Drood, to my mind one thing is quite clear, and that is, that the mystery of Edwin Drood is not in the murder of Edwin Drood, and if the foregoing does not establish, the theory of the murder, how about the numerous incidents and indica­tions in the novel itself, which point with unerring finger to that theory as being the correct one ?

Could a broader hint be given of the fate of Edwin Drood than that contained in the words of the opium hag to him on Christmas Eve? She has told him that he should be glad that his name is not Ned, because that is a threatened name—a dangerous name; to which he lightly replies that the proverb says that threatened men live long. Then, leaning forward and shaking her forefinger in his eye, she says:—

"Then Ned, so threatened is he, wherever he may be while I am a-talking to you, deary, should live to all eternity."

Jasper alone of all his friends and acquaintances called him "Ned." No wonder that the words call "a shudder into his being". No wonder that "he makes for the better-lighted streets! Still as he walks over the bridge and by the river the words are in the angry sky, the troubled water, the flickering lights, and even a solemn echo of them in the cathedral chime." No wonder that "that solemn echo strikes a sudden surprise to his heart as he turns in under the archway of the gatehouse," for it is his last night upon earth, and it is altogether characteristic of Dickens that he should make one who is so soon to die have melan­choly forebodings. The same characteristic is shown in the fact that Neville Landless is very depressed and tells his sister that he wishes he were not going to the dinner, and complains of the strange dead weight in the air. Twice he passes the gatehouse reluctant to enter. Why? Neville is shortly to be accused of murder, and, therefore, must have a foreshadowing of coming trouble. It is only Jasper, the shortly-to-be murderer, who, calm and unruffled, can sing in a low voice and with delicate expression as he mounts the postern stair.

And in connection with the theory of the murder by Jasper, we must not forget to recall that wonderful episode in his dream on the occasion of his second recorded visit to the opium den. He is describing the "journey" and then adds—

"And yet I never saw that before! Look at it! Look what a poor, mean, miserable thing it is. That must be real. It's over!"

Of course! When he had previously com­mitted the crime in fancy, prior to the murder, everything was fancy. Now that the murder has been committed, and he is re-committing it under the opium influence, he can see the body of his victim—the "poor, mean, miserable thing." He never saw the corpse in his opium trances till there was one in reality.


Chapter II

The Reasons for Edwin's Reappearance

For the theory that Drood reappears, stress is laid upon two things, (1) the cover design drawn by Mr. Charles Alston Collins for the original issue of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," and (2) the heading of Chapter XIV., "When Shall These Three Meet Again ?"

(1) With regard to the cover design: It certainly shows Jasper in the vault holding up a dark lantern, which reveals Edwin steadfastly regarding him. Why not? Can it be seriously contended that on such fragile evidence as this a theory is based which is absolutely opposed to the known intentions of the author whilst writing the book itself? Is it not rather reasonable to suppose that a man of Dickens's artistic and keenly sensitive temperament would instruct his artist to draw a cover showing us not what an outsider visiting the vault with Jasper would have seen, but what Jasper's troubled conscience would make him see—one of the spectres of the night he had so often conjured up whilst yet the murder was only a dream?

I cannot strengthen this argument better than by taking Dickens's Christmas story entitled "The Trial for Murder," in which the foreman of the jury is troubled by seeing thirteen men in the jury box, one of them being the spectre of the murdered man. Supposing this story had been un­finished and there had been in existence a cover illustration showing thirteen jury­men, would it have been contended that the plot rested upon the existence of thirteen jurymen instead of twelve? And yet such an illustration would have been quite correct, as it would have shown us what the foreman alone saw, and not what the spectators in court saw. And, in order to prove that this cover of Mr. Collins was not intended to be a real indication of the contents of the book, the top portion of it shows a picture with the cathedral door in the centre, Edwin and Rosa on one side walking away arm in arm, and Jasper on the other side in sur­plice, walking in procession with other choristers, and regarding the two lovers with lowering looks. And yet such an in­cident is not anywhere recorded in the book itself.

(2) "When Shall These Three Meet Again?" So much has been made of this heading to Chapter XIV. in " The Mystery of Edwin Drood " as a reason for the theory that there was no murder, that I must give it special prominence. I have never doubted that such a murder took place. All the in­dications in the novel point to that theory as being the only consistent and tenable one, and I further contend that this very heading is strongly confirmatory of that theory.

The fact that Dickens quotes at all is always a remarkable one; but the fact that he quotes the opening lines of a play which many thinkers believe to be Shakespeare's most profoundly metaphysical study, and the further fact that he uses the quotation as a heading to the most important chapter in the book—the psychological chapter—that chapter in which the mystery is con­summated—is of the deepest significance.

If Forster's record of Dickens's intentions as to the plot of "Edwin Drood" carries no conviction; if Sir Luke Fildes' letter to the "Times," giving Dickens's spoken intentions during the actual writing of the book as to the use to be made of the black scarf, has no weight; if the subsequent instructions to Sir Luke Fildes to make a drawing of the condemned cell at Maidstone, do not confirm the theory of the murder of Edwin, then the use of this remarkable quotation from Macbeth dispels any lingering doubts. For can a more perfect parallel be found! The words " When shall we three meet again? " are the opening words of the first scene in Macbeth, and they are used just prior to the three witches meeting again to plant in Macbeth's mind that lust of ambition which was to have such a tragic result. He slays Duncan, who is at once his guest, his kins­man, and his king; further, it would not be going too far to say that Macbeth, as a vic­torious general of Duncan's army, was Duncan's guardian. Duncan's sons, also guests of Macbeth, fly respectively to Eng­land .and Ireland, and Macbeth uses the flight to spread suspicion against them. "We hear our bloody cousins are bestow'd in England and in Ireland: not confessing their cruel parricide." Jasper is Edwin Drood's kinsman and guardian and host. Jasper slays his nephew and contrives that the suspicion for his disappearance shall fall upon his other guest, Neville Landless, who has to leave Cloisterham. Again I ask, could any parallel be more perfect, even though it were accidental? But the use of the words to the heading of the chapter, "When shall these three meet again?" does away with any idea of its being a chance parallel, proving that Dickens had the tragedy of Macbeth in his mind and positively destroys any shadow of doubt as to what was intended to be the fate of Edwin.

It is, to say the least of it, an extra­ordinary confirmation of the trend of Dickens's thoughts in this direction to find that, in recording the dinner which Grewgious gave to Edwin and his clerk Bazzard at Staple Inn on that foggy night when Rosa's mother's ring is handed to Edwin, another reference is made to Macbeth, and one that seems to be alto­gether unnecessary. There are two waiters in attendance at this feast, a stationary one and a flying one, and in speaking of the sense of touch evinced by the leg of the flying waiter, Dickens says that "it always preceded him and the tray by some seconds and always lingered after he disappeared," adding, " like Macbeth's leg when accom­panying him off the stage with reluctance to the assassination of Duncan."

Thus, it will be seen that all the solutions of which I have given brief accounts, with one exception, accept the theory of the return of Edwin after his disappearance—a theory which I hope I have given ample reasons for objecting to. With regard to the solution of Mr. Walters, who accepts the idea of the murder, I can only say that, strikingly ingenious as it is, the theory that Helena Landless masquerades in Cloisterham as Datchery is to me altogether untenable.

Apart from these specific objections to the solutions already published, I have one general objection. Beyond the mere effort to unravel the tangled skein of a mystery, where is the attempt on the part of any one of them to show us in language, be it never so plain and unadorned, some good lesson taught, some beautiful thought to console and uplift us and make us feel better men and women? It is this omission that leads me to give my impres­sions to the public, and towards the end of this book I have endeavored to show that Dickens had in his mind the preaching of a great sermon, the teaching of a great lesson; that he intended to launch a crusade against mock philanthropy and humbug, and that, out of the pure and unselfish love of a sister for a brother, he meant to tell us in his own great-hearted way to what a height such a love could reach.


Chapter III

How was the Murder Committed?

Believing as I do in the unmistakable genuineness of Sir Luke Fildes's version of the story of the black scarf, it is upon that basis that I proceed to discuss the question of the murder, which is one that can be dealt with very shortly, as the indications in the book itself are plain enough. We know that Jasper was not only a victim to the opium habit, but that he was also an expert at drugging other people; witness the occasion upon which he invited Neville Landless and Edwin Drood to take a glass of wine in his rooms at their first meeting, the quarrel that ensued, and the inexplicable violence of Landless which led to his being subsequently suspected and arrested for the murder of Edwin; witness, again, the sleepiness of Durdles when he and Jasper were exploring the cathedral. That Jasper kept opium in his rooms we learn from Chapter V., where we find that he takes from some secret place a peculiar pipe, which he fills with something which is not tobacco.

Following this are the concluding words of the chapter:—

"His nephew lies asleep, calm and untroubled. John Jasper stands looking down upon him, his unlighted pipe in his hand, for some time in a fixed and deep attention. Then, hushing his footsteps, he passes to his own room, lights his pipe, and delivers himself to the spectres it invokes at midnight." What are these spectres? Take Chapter XXIII., where he revisits the opium den, from which he has been absent so long that the hag who keeps it says that she never thought to see him again, at which visit he puts that series of curious questions to her as to the action of opium : " Suppose you had something on your mind—something you were going to do ... but had not quite determined to do ... should you do it in your fancy when you were lying here doing this 1 " She nods her head. " Over and over again."

"Just like me! I did it over and over again. I have done it hundreds of thousands of times in this room!" Now mark! He had not been to the opium den since the opening chapter. Yet he had done the deed hundreds of thousands of times there. So it is safe to assume that he had the murder in contem­plation from the beginning; which, again, is quite a Dickensian idea, for he says in one of his other novels that if murderers who had suffered for their crime could speak they would say that the whole of their struggles were towards the contem­plated crime and not away from it.

So, before lighting his pipe of opium, he visits his nephew's bedchamber, and, having sated himself with looking at him, he lights his pipe and dreams of the spectres it calls up at midnight, the spectre of the boy sleeping the calm, untroubled sleep of death.

And that spectre becomes a grim reality. We can easily picture the scene. Edwin has returned from his walk down to the river with Landless after the Christmas Eve dinner-party; Jasper is waiting for him with two glasses of wine ready to drink "A Merry Christmas" to the new day which has now dawned. Edwin is a little melancholy. He is wondering how the "dear old fellow" (Jasper) will bear the news of his broken engagement when Grewgious tells him of it. He is wondering what that last curious look of Rosa's meant. He cannot shake off the eerie feeling aroused in him by the opium hag's mysterious words of "Ned" being a threatened person; but he drinks his wine (drugged, of course) with a cheery, "A Merry Christmas, dear old Jack," and sinks into a slumber from which he never awakens. The large black silk scarf, strongly and closely woven, is brought into requisition, and soon one of the spectres of the night becomes a gruesome fact, and Jasper sees his rival for the love of Rosa Bud a strangled corpse before him. Having possessed himself of the boy's watch and chain and shirt-pin (the only jewellery to his certain knowledge that he possesses) he proceeds to take the body to the tomb he has prepared for it. A difficult task, that, to carry the body downstairs and away to the churchyard in the Precincts. But not too difficult, for it must be done. After dark there is little fear of meeting anyone there " because of the awful hush that pervades that ancient pile, the cloisters, and the church­yard," and " because of the innate shrinking of dust with the breath of life in it from dust out of which the breath of life has passed" (Chapter XII.). But on this Christmas night, when the boisterous gale has blown out many of the lamps (and the Precincts are never particularly well lighted), the chances of meeting anyone are almost nil. It may be that the gale helps him along with his awful burden; but, be that as it may, his fearful task is eventually finished, and to the howling of the wind, to the tossing and creaking of the trees, to the tearing and breaking of branches (fit accompaniment to so foul a deed) the body is placed in the vault, and no trace of Edwin Drood revisits the light of the sun.


Chapter IV

Where was the Body Hidden?

Reading the last chapter of "Edwin Drood," which contains the account of Jasper's second visit to the opium den, after the first chapter, the scene of which is laid in the same den, it is impossible to escape the conviction that Jasper has determined upon the murder of Edwin from the very beginning of the book. Looked at in this light his chance meeting with Durdles at the house of Mr. Thomas Sapsea is highly instructive, for it shows us how keenly alive Jasper is to any chance circumstance which will in any way assist him to conceal all traces of his crime when once it shall have been committed.

Once accepting the idea that he was contemplating murder all the time, then no action of his can be regarded as motive­less. Mr. Sapsea is an auctioneer and the greatest ass in Cloisterham, and, therefore, hardly the man with whom Jasper, already bored and sickened with his daily drudgery as he terms it, would care to spend an evening for recreation. But Mr. Sapsea is already on the high road to becoming Mayor of Cloisterham, and is, therefore, a person to be cultivated for the sake of any possibilities attaching to the possessor of such an exalted office, and thus we find Jasper listening to the tiresome common­places of Sapsea and admiring the egregious epitaph which that worthy has composed for his wife's tombstone.

Durdles, the stonemason, who knows more about the cathedral, the crypt, the tower, the Precincts, the churchyard, and the various vaults therein than all the rest of Cloisterham put together, and who has always unrestricted entrance to the cathe­dral, presents himself for the purpose of seeing whether the epitaph as composed will nicely fit the monument, and a chance question of his puts Jasper on the scent of an important discovery.

Durdles has measured up the epitaph, and, finding that Sapsea wants it put in hand at once, asks for the key of the monument.

"Why, man, it is not to be put inside the monument," says Sapsea.

"When Durdles puts a touch or a finish upon his work, no matter where, inside or outside, Durdles likes to look at his work all round and see that his work is a-doing him credit."

The key is handed him before the devouring eyes of Jasper.

"Why, Durdles," says Jasper, "you are undermined with pockets."

"And I carries weight in 'em, too, Mr. Jasper. Feel those "—producing two other large keys.

Here is Jasper's chance.

"Hand me Mr. Sapsea's likewise."

Then follows the apparently idle ques­tion, he having weighed in his hand each one of the three keys:

"Surely this is the heaviest of the three."

The answer is disappointing.

"You'll find 'em much of a much­ness. They all belong to monuments. They all open Durdles' work. Durdles keeps the keys of his work mostly. Not that they are much used."

So Jasper must find some other means of identifying the key of the Sapsea vault. He dare not risk, or does not care to risk, asking what vaults the other two keys open. But he is a keen, trained musician with a true ear, and by clinking the keys one against the other and listening to the sound each produces he will be able to identify any one of them when the time comes to utilize the knowledge he has thus obtained. So, during some idle questioning about Durdles' name, he clinks the keys.

"Take care of the wards, Mr. Jasper," says Durdles; but Jasper ignores the warning and continues his remarks on the origin of Durdles' name, meanwhile clinking with a change of keys.

From the next remark of Durdles it is very evident that Jasper is holding the keys to his ear.

"You can't make a pitch-pipe of 'em, Mr. Jasper."

"Mr. Jasper weighs the three keys in his hand, lifts his head from his idly-stooping attitude over the fire, and delivers the keys to Durdles with an ingenuous and friendly face."

Thus were the first meshes of the net woven which was to entangle the feet of Edwin Drood and end his bright young life. The key of a possible place of sepulture is in the possession of a drink-bemuddled stonemason. Jasper can identify that key, and his next and obvious step is to get possession of it for a brief period in order to obtain an accurate impression of it. Hence the following remark to Durdles when he again meets him as he is on his way from Sapsea's place that night:—

"I am beginning to have some idea of asking you to take me on as a sort of student or free 'prentice under you and to let me go about with you sometimes and see some of these odd nooks in which you pass your days."

The Stony One replies in a general way: " All right. Everyone knows where to find Durdles when he's wanted."

An awful man! With a mind thus full of thoughts of violent death and secret burials he goes to his home and looks at the victim he has doomed—his sleeping nephew, his guest, his ward. Then he passes back to his own room, smokes his opium pipe, and delivers himself to the spectres it invokes— spectres of murder, of sepulchers, and of beautiful and bewitching girlhood. A truly awful man!

So Jasper arranges for a midnight visit to the tower and crypt with Durdles, and skillfully manages to impress upon the Dean that his doing so, that his recently-awakened interest in archaeology, has been brought about and fostered by Sapsea, who complacently admits the fact that he was the means of bringing Jasper and Durdles together.

The night of the visit to the cathedral is big with the fate of Jasper's project. If he can but drug Durdles and so obtain posses­sion of the keys of the various vaults which he knows the stonemason always carries with him in his many capacious pockets, he can identify the key of the Sapsea vault, make an impression of it, and thus have free access to the tomb. And with his head full of such ghoul-like thoughts he goes to his home and, sitting at his piano by the firelight, chants choir-music with low and melodious voice. Then when the time arrives he "closes his piano softly, softly changes his coat for a pea-jacket, with a goodly wicker-cased bottle in the largest pocket, and, putting on a low-crowned, flat-brimmed hat, goes softly out. Why does he move so softly to-night? No outward reason is apparent for it. Can there be any sympathetic reason crouching darkly within him?" Yes! The foreshadowing of blood-guiltiness is on his hardened soul, and he knows that that night he is taking one more step upon the dark path he has made up his mind to pursue to its dread end.

And again accident befriends Jasper—if one can use such a word as "befriends" on such a ghastly subject. On their way from Durdles' place to the cathedral Durdles remarks:—

"Ware that there mound by the yard-gate, Mister Jarsper."

"I see it. What is it? "

"Lime."

"What you call quicklime ? "

"Ay," said Durdles. "Quick enough to eat your boots. With a little handy stirring quick enough to eat your bones."

So that quite handy to that vault where he intends to place his victim's body is a heap of quicklime which will destroy every trace of the body. Truly chance (or its other self, the devil) is luring him to destruction by making his way easy and smooth. And there is no sense of regret for what he is going to do—on the contrary, he revels in it; and when he draws Durdles into the shadow of the old dwarf wall so that, while they cannot be seen, they can see Mr. Crisparkle and Neville Landless, who are earnestly talking together,

"he watches Neville as though his eye were on the trigger of a loaded rifle and he had covered him and were going to fire. A sense of destructive power is so expressed in his face that even Durdles pauses in his munching and looks at him with an unmunched something in his cheek."

Truly a destructive power! In a few days' time it will be Christmas Eve, the day when he and Edwin and Neville are to dine together—"only we three," as Edwin stipu­lated—and if all goes well, or evilly, after that dinner-party Edwin will have ceased to be, and already Jasper has put into training the idea that Neville is mur­derously disposed towards Edwin by means of the quarrel he fomented between them on the occasion of the first meeting of the two boys.

No wonder that when Mr. Crisparkle and Neville have gone Jasper bursts into a fit of laughter—all things are working his way. And never once does he lose sight of his purpose. That must be accomplished. Almost as soon as they are in the crypt the wicker bottle is brought into play.

"The wicker bottle circulates freely—in the sense, that is to say, that its contents enter freely into Mr. Durdles' circulation, while Mr. Jasper only rinses his mouth once and casts forth the rinsing."

It would not do for him to drink drugged and powerful spirituous liquor. He has a purpose to carry out. And even when they have ascended the tower,

"Jasper (always moving softly with no visible reason) contemplates the scene, and especially that stillest part of it which the cathedral over­shadows."

He must needs move softly. For the time is quickly approaching when he must move softly and deftly, if, the drink having taken effect, he would obtain the key, from Durdles which unlocks the Sapsea vault. Still, he can contemplate the scene—can gloat over it—especially the stillest part that the cathedral overshadows, for that is the churchyard, and his mind's eye can see how lonely and deserted the Precincts are at that time of night—can see the Sapsea monument—can o'erleap the intervening time and the many difficulties and dangers still in his path and see his dead nephew lying therein—can exult in the picture of covering him with the quicklime—can glory in the knowledge that it will burn him away to absolute nothingness. A loathsome man, whose mind is a charnel-house.

————

They have barely descended from the tower ere Durdles is asleep. Then softly the keys are taken from his pockets, the key of the crypt from his hand, and Jasper hastens home to the gatehouse, where his lamp burns red behind the curtain as if it were a lighthouse; having identified the Sapsea key, he takes a faithful impression of it, and then hastens back and is walking up and down in the crypt when Durdles awakes.

It is worth while here to quote in full what Durdles dreamt whilst asleep on this occasion, because we may be quite sure that the time will come when Durdles will remember that dream, and will recall it in every detail to Jasper's confusion and damnation:—

"Durdles is asleep at once, and in his sleep he dreams a dream.

"It is not much of a dream, considering the vast extent of the domains of dreamland and their wonderful productions; it is only remarkable for being unusually restless and unusually real. He dreams of lying there, asleep, and yet counting his companion's foot­steps as he walks to and fro. He dreams that the footsteps die away into distance of time and of space and that something touches him and that something falls from his hand. Then something clinks and gropes about, and he dreams that he is alone for so long a time that the lanes of light take new directions as the moon advances in her course. From succeeding unconsciousness he passes into a dream of slow uneasi­ness from cold, and painfully awakes to a perception of the lanes of light—really changed much as he had dreamed—and Jasper walking among them beating his hands and feet."

All has gone well and smoothly for Jasper, and on emerging from the crypt he shakes hands with Durdles, thanks him, and is about to go his own way,

"when a sharp whistle rends the silence ... a rapid fire of stones rattles the cathedral wall, and the hideous small boy is beheld opposite dancing in the moonlight."

This boy is known as Deputy, who is paid so much a week by Durdles to see that he is not out after ten at night. If he does catch him out after that hour his duty is to throw stones at him till he gets home.

His presence now drives Jasper to fury. To think that all he has done may become as nought owing to this baby devil! Why? He has nothing to fear from being seen coming out of the crypt with Durdles. That knowledge is public property; publicly announced to the Dean and by the Dean to Mr. Sapsea. No! he has no fear on that score. But he is afraid that the boy watching them then might have been watching them all along—might have seen him, Jasper, leave the crypt alone and hasten to his rooms—might have seen him return again to the crypt after a long absence. So when Durdles pleads that the boy should not be hurt he says :

"He followed us to-night when we first came here."

"Yer lie; I didn't! " replies Deputy in his one form of polite contradiction.

Then the fear will express itself.

"He has been prowling near us ever since."

"Yer lie; I haven't! " returns Deputy. "I'd only just come out for my 'elth when I see you two a-coming out of the kinfreederel."

With which Jasper must needs be satisfied, and so goes home.

All has gone well for him. He has now the means of entry to the Sapsea vault—he has a convenient heap of quicklime. Not much time will he waste in getting the key made to the mould—not much time will he lose in testing it—not much time will he lose in transferring some of the con­veniently-placed quicklime within the vault, for the Precincts have an awful hush about them at night-time which makes them a shunned place, and he can go on his ghoulish preparations with impunity, for he is one of the dust with the breath of life in it that does not shrink from the dust from which the breath of life has passed.

Comes Christmas Eve—comes the dinner­-party for "only we three," and Edward Drood disappears for ever from human sight.

A skillfully-planned murder—a boldly-planned murder—bold and skillful almost to the point of genius. For who would think of a loving and doting uncle—known by all to be such—doing away with a beloved nephew ? Who would think of looking in the Sapsea monument, the property of the Worshipful the Mayor of Cloisterham, for the body of the vanished one? And, if they did, what would they find? Maybe a few remnants of bones and some lime, left there, it would be said, by Durdles' careless workmen! For all that could identify the murdered boy, all that the quicklime would be powerless against— his watch, his chain, and his pin—had been thrown into the river. And there was always Neville Landless to fall back upon because of his murderous attack on Drood at their first meeting. A flawless scheme I A perfect scheme I Nothing forgotten— nothing neglected.

How could Jasper know that his nephew's very love for him, his nephew's very thoughtfulness for him would prove his undoing? When he took from the body the watch and chain and pin he thought he had taken away the only things that the quicklime could not destroy. How was he to know that in his dead nephew's bosom there lay the ring of rose diamonds and rubies, delicately set in gold, taken from the dead hand of Rosa's mother and given by Mr. Grewgious to Edwin to place on Rosa's finger, with the solemn injunction that—

"If anything should be amiss—if anything should be even slightly wrong between you—if you should have any secret consciousness that you are committing yourself to this step for no higher reason than because you have long been accus­tomed to look forward to it, then I charge you once more, by the living and the dead, to bring that ring back to me."

He could not know. Neither could he know that that interview of Edwin and Grewgious was fraught to him with an awful danger. That is the sermon which Dickens always so consistently preaches; and which he expresses nowhere so well, nowhere so powerfully, as in " Our Mutual Friend" when he says of Bradley Headstone:—

"He had no suspicion of the real danger that lurked in his life ... Riderhood was much in his thoughts. ... but Riderhood occupied a very different place from the place of pursuer. ... And this is another spell from which the shedder of blood for ever strives in vain. There are fifty doors by which discovery may enter. With infinite pains and cunning he double-locks and bars forty-nine of them and cannot see the fiftieth standing wide open."

Dickens allows us to be under no delusion as to the important part which "those sorrowful jewels" (the rubies and diamonds of the ring) are to play. Twice during Edwin's parting interview with Rosa does his hand close upon the ring in his breast-pocket, and each time he checks himself by the considerate thought, If I am to give it back to Grewgious, why should I tell her of it ? And he determines, in the new and thoughtful tenderness which has come to him since the breaking of the betrothal, to say nothing about the ring.

"Let them be. Let them lie un­spoken of, in his breast. ... Among the mighty store of wonderful chains that are for ever forging, day and night, in the vast ironworks of time and circumstance, there was one chain forged in that moment of that small conclusion, riveted to the foundations of heaven and earth, and gifted with invincible force to hold and drag."

Surely the foundations of heaven and earth are the grave, to which we must all go, through which we must all pass to the life immortal. Surely the chain riveted therein is that small ring of jewels— invincible enough to hold and drag the murderer to his just doom!

All through the day and night of the discovery of Edwin's disappearance Jasper toils on, doing the work of twenty men in his search for his missing nephew; getting his clothes bedaubed in mud, tearing much of them to rags, searching in barge and boat with drag and with net; ubiquitous and untiring, Jasper searches and toils, knowing all the while that he for whom he is searching is at that time losing every vestige of humanity by the action of the all-devouring quicklime.

What a man! What a devil! What a ghoul! Still there is the little circlet of diamonds and rubies, which defies the burning quicklime and keeps within itself the hidden fires which shall make it sparkle and coruscate when the eye of man shall next behold it.


Chapter V

Who was Datchery?

Datchery is either a totally new character introduced for the purpose of discovering the mystery or he is one of the old characters in disguise for the same purpose. While the former hypothesis is quite possible, I think it is far more reasonable to assume that it is one of the old characters in a new role, and that Dickens has again enlisted the aid of a dual identity to bring about a certain event. Speaking from memory, there are at least three occasions in previous works in which the same device is used. John Harmon becomes Julius Handford first and then John Rokesmith; Sydney Carton sinks his identity in that of Charles Darnay and goes to the scaffold; and in that powerful little work, written in 1860, called " Hunted Down," Meltham becomes the apparently drunken Beckwith in order to bring that cold-blooded poisoner, Slinkton, to justice. So there is every reason why Datchery should be one of the characters already introduced before he comes upon us as Datchery.

Accepting this theory, perhaps the most expeditious method of getting at least near to Datchery's identity is to dismiss all those who with positive certainty we can say Datchery is not. In the same spirit of superfluousness with which the Church Table of Affinity says that a man may not marry his grandmother, I say that Datchery is not Jasper, nor the opium hag, nor the Dean, nor Mr. Tope, nor Durdles, nor the Deputy, nor Rosa Bud, nor Miss Twinkleton, nor Mr. Sapsea, nor Mr. Honeythunder. Then we have left Mr. Crisparkle, Mr. Grewgious, Mr. Tartar, Mr. Bazzard, and Neville and Helena Landless. With regard to the Rev. Mr. Crisparkle and Messrs. Grewgious, Tartar, and Neville Landless, we find these four together in Staple Inn in Chapter XVII., and the following chapter—in which Datchery is first intro­duced—commences " At about this time," referring undoubtedly, if words mean anything at all, to the time of the preceding chapter. Therefore, if the sequence of time and place is in any way regulated by the sequence of chapters, we can dismiss those four from being regarded as possible Datcherys. There now remain Helena Landless, and Bazzard the lugubrious clerk, the disappointed author of the "Thorn of Anxiety."

I have lingered much at the name of Helena Landless. I remember her passionate love for her brother. I recall the fact that the brother, in his first chat with Mr. Crisparkle, tells how four times she dressed as a boy and showed the daring of a man when they ran away from their stepfather. I bear in mind (with a lump in my throat) Mr. Crisparkle's eloquent testimony to her splendid devotion to her slandered and suspected brother when he says (to Neville):—

"No doubt her life is darkened by the cloud that darkens yours. But bending her pride into a grand com­posure that is not haughty or aggressive, but is a sustained con­fidence in you and in the truth, she has won her way through those streets until she passes along them as high in the general respect as any­one who treads them. Every day and hour of her life since Edwin Drood's disappearance she has faced malignity and folly—for you—as only a brave heart well directed can. So it will be with her to the end."

None of these things have I passed unnoticed. The little girl who had not hesitated to dress as a boy in order to escape with her brother and so make his escape the easier would not hesitate, when she was a young lady, to dress as a man if by so doing she could scatter the slanders and suspicions that hung around him. And yet could a young lady so well known in the streets of Cloisterham suddenly change her feminine clothing and behavior for male attire and gait and habits without any fear of detec­tion, meeting today, as she would, with those whom but yesterday she had met and talked with as a girl? I am doubtful as to its practicability. She might have deceived most of the sleepy dunderheads of sleepy, dunderheaded Cloisterham, but she would never have deceived one pair of watchful, keen, and suspicious eyes—those of Jasper.

And Helena knew her Cloisterham; so why should she lose her way from the "Crozier" to the cathedral; and even if she were only pretending to do so would she carry her pretense so far as to engage the services of Deputy to guide her, he being the only person she appears to have met on her way? Or would she consider it necessary to assume that look of interest which Datchery gave when Jasper's door was pointed out; and all this consummate acting merely to throw dust in the eyes of a ragged and ignorant street urchin? I think if nothing else destroys the Helena-Datchery theory this does effectively.

Then, again, Dickens, so accurate in matters appertaining to the table, so well informed on such things as to be able to describe a supper in a young lady's bed­room—

"Club suppers had occurred in the bedrooms, and a dressed tongue had been carved with a pair of scissors and handed round with the curling-tongs. Portions of marma­lade had likewise been distributed in a service of plates constructed of curl-paper, and cowslip wine had been quaffed from the small, squat measuring-glass in which Ricketts (a junior and of weakly constitution) took her steel drops daily"— would never have committed the error of making a girl, albeit disguised in male attire, partake of a meal consisting of fried sole, a veal cutlet, and a pint of sherry; nor would he make her eat a supper of bread and cheese and salad and ale.

But I have still another reason for Datchery not being Helena Landless.

In the chapter following the introduction of Datchery (Chapter XVIII.) we read that "Helena Landless has left the Nuns' House to attend her brother's fortunes." Then follows Rosa's flight to Mr. Grewgious after the scene in the garden with Jasper, and the very next day after the flight we find Rosa talking to Helena (who is in her brother's chambers) from Mr. Tartar's window. But Mr. Datchery has taken the Tope quarters for a period, and the very next mention of him is in the last chapter of the book, when the opium hag, in her search for Jasper, finds him sitting in his ancient vaulted room watching the postern staircase. For these reasons I can confidently dismiss Helena Landless as a possible Datchery.

There is left to us Bazzard, who is described to us with much particularity:—

"A pale, puffy-faced, dark-haired person of thirty, with big, dark eyes ... a fabulous familiar ... a gloomy person with tangled locks."

Now, considering the copiousness of description, the splendid word-pictures which Dickens gives of his characters, and by which we can see them living and moving and having their being before us, the description of Datchery is singularly bare, and no doubt intentionally so:—

"A white-haired personage with black eyebrows." "This gentleman's white head was unusually large; and his shock of white hair was unusually thick and ample."

No description of figure or height—and no description of Bazzard's figure or height. So if we put a thick white wig on Bazzard he at once becomes "a white-haired personage with black eyebrows."

But there are other points of resemblance between Bazzard and Datchery. Bazzard has a curious habit of formally repeating a phrase:—

"I follow you, sir."

"I follow you, sir, and I thank you."

"I follow you, sir, and I pledge you."

These three phrases follow each other in rapid succession when Grewgious and Edwin and Bazzard are dining together in Staple Inn. Then a few minutes later as witness of the transfer of the ring :—

"I follow you, sir, and I have been following you."

"I follow you both, and I witness the transaction."

How do we find Datchery talking ?

"The Worshipful the Mayor places me under an infinite obliga­tion."

"The Worshipful the Mayor gives them a character of which they may indeed be proud."

"His Honour inspires me with a desire to know more of the city."

"His Honour the Mayor does me too much credit."

Like master, like man, for this same method of repetition we find in Grewgious, with whom Bazzard is so closely associated.

"And how did you leave Mr. Jasper, reverend sir?"

"And where did you leave Mr. Jasper, reverend sir?"

"And when did you leave Mr. Jasper, reverend sir?"

And then we must take note of the curious prominence which Dickens gives to Bazzard when his name is first mentioned— that is on the occasion of the important interview Edwin has with Grewgious when all three dine together and the ring is handed to Edwin. Why is Bazzard asked to dine with them? It is evidently not customary for Grewgious to invite him to dinner, because later on, when Rosa flies to her guardian for protection from Jasper, Grewgious tells her that Bazzard "goes his way after office hours." It is apparent that Dickens was anxious that Bazzard should be a witness of the transfer of the ring for the purpose of identifying it afterwards, and we know not only from the passages here quoted from the book, but from the outline of what the plot was to be, as told by Forster, what a vital part that ring was to play in the development of the story.

But, again, it cannot escape our notice that when Rosa earlier in the book asks Grewgious whether he could come to her at Christmas, if necessary, Grewgious, who disclaims the possession of any conversa­tional powers, instead of saying "Yes" right away, laboriously explains that he can do so, as his only engagement is to dine with his clerk, whose father is a Norfolk farmer, and the fact that Bazzard is the son of a Norfolk farmer is again mentioned by Grewgious when Rosa flies to London from Jasper. It certainly is an extra­ordinary thing, if it is meaningless, that when Grewgious and Edwin and Bazzard dine together Bazzard seems to be always on Grewgious' lips, though present, and when Rosa and Grewgious are talking Bazzard dominates the conversation, though absent.

But the Norfolk farmer's son occurs to the mind with much force when we find Datchery soliloquizing thus: "I like the old tavern way of keeping scores," referring to the chalk marks he has made on the inside of a cupboard-marks which probably recorded his progress in the way of discoveries. There spoke the Norfolk farmer's son, used to markets and market-dinners, to village ale-houses, and accus­tomed to see chalk scores against Tom, Dick and Harry for beer on the bar door.

I regard this little remark of Datchery's as strong proof of his identity with Bazzard.

No one can read the chapter describing the interview between Grewgious and Jasper after the disappearance of Edwin Drood without being struck by Grewgious' aloof and almost hostile attitude. Their pre­vious interview, described in the book, had been of an ordinary friendly nature as between two men whose respective wards were betrothed to each other, and they had shaken hands at parting. But at the next interview what a difference. Curtly and coolly, looking at the fire, and alternately opening and shutting his hands as he warms them, he tells Jasper of the part­ing of the betrothed couple for ever and ever; tells it with exasperating slowness, taking no notice of its terrible effect on his listener—taking no notice of the "staring white face," of the two quivering white lips, and the "two muddy hands gripping" the sides of the easy chair—taking no notice of the "lead-coloured face," from the surface of which start dreadful drops or bubbles as of steel—taking no notice when the "ghastly figure rises, open-mouthed, and lifts its outspread hands towards its head"—taking no notice when the ghastly figure throws back its head, clutches its hair with its hands, and turns " with a writhing action from him "—taking no notice even when there is a terrible shriek and he sees nothing" but a heap of torn and miry clothes upon the floor," but simply looks down at it and continues the opening and shutting of his hands as he stands warming them at the fire. No sign of sympathy with a stricken and suffering fellow-creature does he show.

Then when Jasper has recovered, Grewgious, wooden of aspect, sits stiffly in a chair with his hands upon his knees, and all the time that Jasper is eating drinking the food which Mrs. Tope brings in he still continues to sit upright "with a hard kind of imperturbably-polite protest all over him."

How can this change of attitude be accounted for?

True to his promise, he had come to Cloisterham at Christmas to see his ward, only to hear the news of Edwin's disappearance. Poor little Rosa could tell him but little, excepting that she had parted for ever from Edwin and that Jasper had witnessed their parting. It is, however, doubtful whether she said anything to raise any suspicions about Jasper. But Grewgious had also seen Helena, and, as he told Jasper, her state was "Defiance of all suspicion and unbounded faith in her brother."

We know that Helena had conceived almost from the first a wonderful affection for Rosa; we also know that, having for the first time seen Rosa and Jasper together at the Crisparkle dinner-party, she had at once noticed that Jasper was in love with Rosa. So in their bedroom that night: — "Who is Mr. Jasper?" "Eddy's uncle and my music-master." "You do not love him?" "Ugh!" "You know that he loves you?" "Oh, don't, don't, don't!" cried Rosa. "Don't tell me of it. He terrifies me. He haunts my thoughts like a dreadful ghost ... But you said to-night that you would not be afraid of him under any circum­stances, and that gives me—who am so much afraid of him—courage to tell only you. Hold me! Stay with me! I am too frightened to be left by myself." The lustrous gipsy face drooped over the clinging arms and bosom, and the wild black hair fell down protectingly over the childish form. There was a slumbering gleam of fire in the intense dark eyes, though they were then softened with com­passion and admiration. Let whom­soever it most concerned look well to it.

This is the girl whom Grewgious sees, whose brother is suspected of a horrible crime, whose girl-friend has just lost a newly-made brother. Would not her quick wits—wits sharpened by cruelty and ill-usage in early childhood and the necessity for thinking and acting for herself and her brother—would not an intelligence made all the keener by the jeopardy of her brother and the grief of her friend—at once jump to one question, Who is most interested in this murder, if murder it be? Then her thoughts would rush back to Rosa's revelations on the night of their first meeting of how she was afraid of Jasper. Then she would remember how it had at once struck her that Rosa seemed to be afraid that Jasper was threatening some­thing or another in some dark way. She would also remember that Rosa had told her about the curious glaze coming over his eyes and how he wandered away into a frightful sort of dream, and, coming from an Eastern land where opium smoking is a daily habit, she would probably at once guess that Jasper was an opium-smoker. Can it be doubted that at her interview with Grewgious she communicated two facts to that gentleman—the one that Jasper, the uncle and guardian of Edwin, had made love to his ward's betrothed, and the other that he was an opium-smoker; and, in defense of her brother, she would not be slow to add her firm conviction that, as the person most interested in Edwin's removal, he was guilty of whatever had happened. Then Mr. Grewgious would call to mind that curiously noticeable whiteness of the lips which he had observed when he had called on Jasper at the cathedral, and he would also remember how when at parting he (Grewgious) had said, "God bless them both," Jasper had replied, "God save them both."

Thus, with a mind full of dark suspicion against Jasper, he goes to tell him, as in duty bound, of the mutual breaking of their betrothal vows by Edwin and Rosa, and in the course of his recital the suspicions aroused by Helena are more than confirmed by Jasper's conduct, for the staring white face, the dreadful perspira­tion, the ghastly writhing, and the terrible shriek say to him as plainly as if they were spoken words: "All my scheming and planning, my awful deed in vain, my soul stained with the black crime of murder, and all for nought." What worlds of agony and remorse Jasper must have gone through in the few moments occupied by Grewgious' recital. And when Grewgious looked down at the heap of torn and miry clothes upon the floor, he knew that he was looking down at Edwin's murderer. But the time was not yet ripe for him to lay his hand on his shoulder and say, " Thou art the man."

Still it was necessary that something should be done; that someone should be on the spot whom Jasper could not suspect, and who could, without suspicion, keep that gentleman and his doings under pretty close surveillance. Whom could he send? It must be someone whom he could absolutely trust, someone whom Jasper had never seen. Who best answered these requirements? Why, Bazzard, of course. Bazzard was un­known to Jasper. Bazzard was used to country people, than whom none are more suspicious of "Londoners." Bazzard had written a tragedy! Here was a tragedy in real life. An uncle suspected of slaying his nephew for the love of that nephew's betrothed. What a chance for Bazzard! So Bazzard is coached in everything necessarily appertaining to the chief per­sons concerned, is probably told to take the Tope apartments, which command a view of Jasper's postern staircase, is carefully and skilfully fitted with a white wig, and goes off to Cloisterham.

Only a few words more as to the theory that Bazzard is Datchery. When Rosa flies to Staple Inn to Mr. Grewgious, after her scene with Jasper in the garden, she says to him—

"Do you always live here, sir?" "Yes, my dear." "And always alone?" "Always alone, except that I have daily company in a gentleman by the name of Bazzard, my clerk." "He doesn't live here?" "No, he goes his way after office hours. In fact, he is off duty here altogether just at present."

Please note that a careful man like Grewgious, a man who weighs words, says, "He is off duty here altogether just now "—the obvious inference being that he is on duty somewhere else.

Then Grewgious goes on to tell Rosa the history of his connection with Bazzard; and from that time onward to the end of the book the name of Bazzard is not again men­tioned, excepting casually that "Billickin" is his widowed cousin divers times removed. I think that all the indications point to Bazzard being Datchery, and when Rosa explains to Grewgious that her reason for coming to him is that his (Eddy's) uncle— "has made love to me I cannot bear it. I shudder with horror of him, and I have come to you to pro­tect me and all of us from him, if you will"— there is a sense of power, of knowledge that he has already done something to that end, when he says with amazing energy— "I will. Damn him!

Confound his politics! Frustrate his knavish tricks! On thee his hopes to fix? Damn him again!"

Be very careful, Jasper, and walk warily. You are detested by Helena Landless; you are loathed by Rosa; you are more than sus­pected by Grewgious; you are even now disliked and mistrusted by genial Mr. Crisparkle. Be very careful, for your every movement is watched. The idle, old white-haired dog who loafs about Cloisterham all day, and who sits in his vaulted chamber at night, looking lazily at your staircase, is a lion in your path, who may one day spring up and devour you. And in the drear re­cesses of a dark vault, a little ring, you wot not of, lies amid a heap of moldering lime and calcined bones, patiently biding its time till its hidden fires shall shine out to blind and confound you. So be very careful and walk warily.


Chapter VI

How was the Murder Discovered?

"I like," says Mr. Datchery, "the old tavern way of keeping scores. Illegible except to the scorer. The scorer not committed, the scorer debited with what is against him. Hum! Ha! A very small score this; a very poor score."

There's a stroke for Durdles, a stroke for Deputy, a stroke for the Worshipful the Mayor, and a stroke for the opium-hag who has followed Jasper down to Cloisterham after his second recorded visit to her den in London, and has seen him go to his rooms and finds Datchery watching his staircase from his vaulted chamber. Datchery's instinct is right. Those are the four people whose information, if combined, will tell him all he wants to know; but the link is missing. Quite suddenly and quite as unexpectedly that link is supplied. Act­ing on the information of the Deputy that " 'Er Royal Highness the Princess Hopeum Puffer" is going to the "kinfreederel" for early morning service, he himself deter­mines to go and watch the watcher. He goes and sees her shake her fists at the choir­master. Outside he meets her and says—

"Well, mistress. Good morning. You have seen him."

"I've seen him, deary. I've seen him."

"And you know him?"

"Know him! Better far than all the reverend parsons put together know him."

Then he goes home, and before sitting down to his breakfast "he opens his corner-cupboard door, takes a bit of chalk from its shelf, adds one thick line to the score extending from the top of the cup­board door to the bottom, and then falls Co with an appetite."

What does that one long, thick line mean? Neither more nor less than that in the threatening attitude of the old hag to Jasper he has found the link which shall unite his scattered and odd bits of informa­tion into a perfect whole.

Now Datchery has given Deputy a shilling to find out the hag's correct address in London, and by and by we can well believe that the information is forthcoming. It was a good thing for Datchery and a bad one for Jasper, when the former got on to the soft side of that young savage; for, in giving the address, Deputy (we must imagine) says to Datchery—

"If I tells yer something, yer won't tell Jarsper, will yer?"

"Honour bright, Winks," says Datchery, "I won't tell him."

"Yer know what I told yer about him histing me off my legs and bustin' my braces?"

"Yes."

"Well, that was the night him and Durdles was in the kinfreederel. I sees 'em come out and he goes for me and hists me off my legs and busts my braces. 'What for,' says Durdles, 'don't hurt the boy, Mr. Jarsper.' 'He's been a-watchin' of us ever since we came here,' says Jarsper. 'Y'r lie, I ain't,' I said. 'I've only just come.' If I had said I had been there a long time he'd have nearly killed me. But I had. I see Jarsper come out of the little crypt door all by isself, and I watches him go home, and then after a long time he comes back, and then he and Durdles comes out. And 'ere," he adds, and perhaps for the first time in his life he lowers his voice to a hushed whisper," one night I see him come out of Mr. Sapsea's vault, leastways I thought it was. T'warnt a ghost, cos they're allus in white, and this was a man in black wiv a soft 'at on."

"When was this, Winks," says Datchery, trying to appear calm.

"A few nights arter him and Durdles was in the crypt, and just afore Christmas."

"You're a brick, Winks," says Datchery, "and here's another shilling for you, and mind you tell nobody else. Eh? Honour bright."

"Honour bright," returns Deputy; "and mind yer don't tell Jarsper."

From that time, Datchery, the chartered bore of the city, is fond of lounging about in the churchyard, and especially near the Sapsea monument. Mr. Sapsea has now a great regard for the white-haired stranger, who is evidently a man of great taste, especially in epitaphs. He knows his place, too, and is respectful to those in authority. So he is invited to the Sapsea ground floor sitting-room and regaled with wine and backgammon and cold beef and salad. And on one of these occasions Mr. Sapsea tells him that it was in that very room that the celebrated epitaph was composed, and he laughs as he describes how Durdles insisted on having the key of the vault before he would do the work of putting the epitaph on the tomb. He also tells, with much glee, how amazed Mr. Jasper (a steady young fellow that, sir, and no nonsense about him) was at Durdles' pockets; how interested he was in the keys of the various vaults that Durdles carried about with him, and especi­ally interested, sir, says pompously swelling Sapsea, in my key. Why, he even struck it on the grate and held it to his ear, as if it were a tuning-fork, so that Durdles nearly laughed for the first time in his life.

How Datchery laughs; how appreciative he is of the Sapsea conversation; how he vows, as he rises to leave, that he can hardly tear himself away; and how set and stern his face becomes as he walks home; for the pieces of the puzzle are grouping themselves orderly together.


Chapter VII

Datchery's Dream

But that night, either the Sapsea epitaph has been too much in his mind, or he has partaken too heartily of beef and salad prior to retiring to rest. The words of the inscription seem burnt into his brain, and he cannot sleep for thinking of them. For a wager, he feels as he uneasily turns and tosses about, he could repeat them word for word—aye, and write them line for line and type for type. Eventually he falls into an uneasy slumber. Even then the inscrip­tion pursues him. The words of it whirl through his brain in chaotic confusion; they dance before him in bewildering medley in all the colours of the kaleidoscope.

Suddenly they stand still and take the shape in which they actually appear on the monu­ment. Then the face of a demon appears—no, it is not a demon—it is Jasper; but what an awful Jasper. This is not the calm, staid, respectable choirmaster! This is a devil from hell masquerading in his fea­tures. The eyes burn with a sombre glow; the face is a deathly white, and the features are convulsed with a fearful hatred. The face disappears, but the inscription re­mains. Then a long, lean hand is stretched out—only a hand—the fingers of which rapidly touch certain letters of the inscrip­tion, which, as they are touched, flame out blood-red, and then the vision vanishes.

Trembling and terrified Datchery starts up in bed, only to find the dawn creeping in at the windows. But the blood-red letters still flash out in his mind's eye, and give a gruesome significance to the epitaph.

No more sleep for Datchery. As soon asit is light enough he is out and away to the precincts—to the churchyard, studying Mrs. Sapsea's inscription. Yes, it is quite true. The letters are now a sober black, but those touched by the ghostly finger still stand out in Datchery's eyes as letters of fire, and will do for many a long day to come.

And now how quickly do the pieces of the puzzle group themselves together. Edwin Drood's name in perfect sequence in the words forming the Sapsea epitaph. Jasper interested in the sound of the keys Durdles carries with him, especially in that of the Sapsea vault, and Jasper is a musician. Jasper leaving Durdles alone in the crypt for some hours, going to his room returning to the crypt, and coming out with Durdles. What was Durdles doing all that time? Asleep? Drunk? Stay! Jasper is an opium smoker—in all prob­ability he keeps the drug at home. No, Durdles was drugged! Deputy thinks he saw Jasper coming out of the vault just before Edwin's disappearance. Yes, that is it! Jasper left Durdles drugged in the crypt while he went home and took an impression of the key. If this link of events be true, then the body of Edwin Drood is buried in the Sapsea vault. But Durdles must be seen, and at once.

Wild as is the tumult in his brain caused by this rush of thought, with all its tre­mendous possibilities, Datchery calms him­self sufficiently to remember the soft side of Durdles; so before obtruding himself on that surly person's notice, he arms himself with the liquor—enough for two—which the stonemason so dearly loves.

Durdles is about with his usual look—the look as if he is either beginning to get sober or about to become drunk; but he thoroughly appreciates the courtesy of the stranger who hands him a morning draught at such an opportune moment. He takes a long pull at the bottle, and after so doing gives Datchery the very opening he is longing for. Wiping his lips he says, "Prime stuff that—and not so heady as Mr. Jarsper's," and mutters something about not liking liquor that takes the use out of a man's legs and sends him to sleep and makes him feel dazed.

Datchery is much concerned. "Does Jasper's liquor do that?"

"Durdles don't know if it always does. All he knows is that it done it the night Durdles took Mr. Jasper over the cathedral."

So, little by little, bit by bit, Durdles tells his strange experiences of that night and of his curious dream, and Datchery has no longer any doubt as to his case being perfect. Still the vault has to be searched, so he rallies Durdles on his skill in sounding for the "old 'uns," and gradually gets him to the Sapsea vault.

"Now supposing," he says, "there was anything in here besides Mrs. Sapsea, could you find it out by tapping?"

Durdles looks at him with as much con­tempt as he can bestow on a gentleman who is so admirable a judge of a man's require­ments in the shape of liquor, and without a word more goes inside the railings and taps the tomb with his hammer. All of a sudden the drunk-sober look on his face vanishes and gives place to one of perturbation.

"What's the matter? " says Datchery.

Still with a frown on his face, but with a keener and more alert look than Datchery has ever seen there before, Durdles is tap­ping all round the vault, and at each tap listens with an intentness which no one would have supposed his drink-sodden face capable of.

Again Datchery asks, "What's the matter ?"

"Someone's been interfering with Durdles' work," he grumbles. "Eight foot in­side that wall is Mrs. Sapsea, but there's something betwixt that wall and Mrs. Sapsea."

"How do you know ? "

"By the sound. As I told Mr. Jarsper, he pitches his note, and I sounds for mine. I take my hammer and I tap. There's some­thing in that Sapsea vault asides Mrs. Sapsea, and I'm a-going to see what it is."

Durdles has got the key out and is about to open the vault when Datchery hints that it will be as well to send for Mr. Sapsea. Just at that moment Deputy arrives, and he is despatched for his Worship, who soon makes his appearance.

"What's wrong, Durdles ? "

"Someone's been a-interfering with Durdles' work. Is it you?"

"Me? Of course not. Nobody has had the key since I gave it you."

"Yer lie," breaks in the Deputy. "I see a man come out of there last Christmas Eve."

"Who was it ? "

"I dunno. I thought it was Jarsper. I wasn't going to let him ketch me and hist me and bust my braces agin." Here Deputy remembers that he has bound Datchery to secrecy, so he adds: "But I was a good way off, so I ain't sure. P'raps it was a ghost."

Only Datchery pays any attention to this remark. The other two are much too pre­occupied.

"You're sure, Durdles?" says Sapsea, "that there is something."

"Sure! Of course I am. When the in­scription was finished I had a look all round at Durdles' work and there wasn't anything in there then asides Mrs. Sapsea."

"Very well! Open the vault and look."

The huge key turns rustily in the lock, and with much creaking and groaning the door of the vault slowly swings back, and Durdles disappears.

By and by he comes out—a look of satis­faction on his face trying to combat one of anger at his work having been interfered with.

"Go to my place and get a lantern," he says to Deputy, and Deputy, who looks upon the whole proceedings with delicious relish, instantly rushes off.

"Well," says Sapsea, impatiently.

"Durdles was right. There is a little heap of rubbish in there."

"What is it?"

"It feels like lime and bones, but we shall soon see."

Just then a musical voice says, "Good morning, Mr. Sapsea! Good morning, Mr. Datchery! Good morning, Durdles," and Jasper stands before them, and from that moment Datchery watches his every word and look and movement. Mr. Sapsea tells of Durdles' discovery, which Jasper listens to with much sympathy. He even reminds Durdles of the night when he showed him his skill by taking a wall to represent the Sapsea vault and discovering some rubbish in the inter­vening space, and is much interested in what he calls a curious coincidence, and con­gratulates Durdles on his extreme accuracy.

Yes, he is quite at his ease. He has ex­pected the discovery of the heap some day, and it is as well it should be over and done with now. So he will wait and see. He knows what is there—nobody better.

Deputy returns' with the light, and in goes Durdles, followed by the Mayor and Datchery and Jasper. Do the thoughts of Jasper revert to that wild, stormy night when, amidst the howling and roaring of the wind, he had placed the yet warm body of his nephew there and covered it with quicklime 1 If they do there is no trace of it on his face, which is calm and solemn, as befits the occasion.

The air of the vault is heavy and earthy and fetid. The light of the lantern flashes on a mouldering heap as Durdles bends over it, and produces a few bones, which he care­fully lays on one side. Again the light flashes on the mouldering heap. "What is that sparkling down there? " says Datchery suddenly.

"Where?" growls Durdles.

"There, near where your right hand was a minute ago."

Again the light flashes, and now Durdles can see something gleaming and sparkling. He picks it up.

The gold has turned black, the jewels are dull, but as the light of the lantern gleams upon them, they bravely give back ray for ray and sparkle for sparkle.

"A ring," says Durdles.

"My God!" groans a voice. "A ring!" And Jasper would have fallen had not Datchery caught him and assisted him out of the vault.

Here Jasper revives and says that the air of the vault had upset him, with which Mr. Sapsea and Datchery sympathetically con­cur—Sapsea especially—to whom Datchery says presently, with much gravity :—

"Mr. Sapsea, as Mayor of this city, I think it would be only right if you pro­ceeded with Durdles and myself to the police office, hand that ring to the Superin­tendent, and tell him of our discovery."

Mr. Sapsea is of the same opinion and makes the strikingly original discovery that "there is some mystery here, gentlemen."

Jasper gives Datchery a sharp, searching look, but there is nothing in that gentle­man's face to indicate that he is in any way interested in the matter, beyond the interest of an ordinary man in a somewhat extraordinary discovery.

So to the police-station, where the Super­intendent wonderingly hears the story of Durdles, and tells that worthy that he is a marvel. He also takes the ring, polishes the stones with his handkerchief, breathes on them and admires their lustre.

"But what is your idea, Durdles?"

"Well," says Durdles, "them's human bones, and that's quicklime. If I hadn't had the key in my pocket ever since Mr. Sapsea gave it me before Mr. Jarsper there, blessed if I shouldn't think if somebody had put a corpse in there and burnt it with quick-lime. But nobody excepting a born fool would put a corpse in there with a ring on; quicklime can't eat up gold and jewels."

————

After the rest have departed, Datchery has an interview with the Superintendent, the result of which astonishes that official considerably. He also has a somewhat pro­longed interview with Deputy and another with Durdles, and then goes off to London and drives to Staple Inn. Here he becomes Bazzard again, and ends a long statement to Mr. Grewgious by saying: " You must, of course, go down and identify the ring, but that those bones are the bones of Edwin Drood I have no doubt, and that he was placed there by Jasper there is, in my mind, no doubt. Considering how drink-bemuddled Durdles generally is, it is extra­ordinary how well he remembers nearly all the incidents that occurred the night he and Jasper went over the cathedral. He says he remembers dreaming that somebody touched him while he lay asleep in the crypt, the fact being that he really felt and heard what he thinks he dreamt—a thing not unknown in the case of drugged persons. Deputy is quite sound—he remem­bers seeing Jasper coming out from the crypt alone — remembers watching him home, and seeing him return to the crypt after a long absence, and then come out with Durdles. I propose now that we should go and see the old lady of the opium den, whose address Deputy got for me, and find out what she has to tell us."

So eastwards they go, and, with some difficulty, find her place. After receiving an earnest of goodwill, with promises of much more in the future if she will only do as they wish, she tells them of Jasper's last visit there, of how he questioned her about the action of the opium, of how he spoke about a journey and a fellow-traveller, and of how he asked her whether the opium was as potent as before.

"Ah!" she cries, "I mixed it for him and I found the way to make him talk."

Both Datchery (for such I shall continue to call him) and Grewgious start, for the same idea has struck them both.

They arrange that the old woman shall send Jasper a letter such as will ensure his presence at the den a couple of nights hence, when they themselves and other witnesses shall be present.

On returning to Staple Inn they find Neville and Helena, Mr. Crisparkle and Tartar together, to whom they communicate the good news. Neville is, of course, pleased, but Helena is transported with delight and vows that nothing shall prevent her hearing Jasper's opium-forced con­fession.

"But such an unfit place for a young lady," remonstrates Grewgious.

"Then I'll do as I've often done before— dress in Neville's clothes."

This is agreed to at length, and they await, with what patience they may, the night which means so much to them.


Chapter VIII

How was Jasper made to Disclose His Crime?

What a man has done once it is possible he may do again. But what a great novelist has done four times before in four different novels as part of a consistent theory in the development of his plots, with a period of twelve years between the first and the last, it is surely reasonable to believe he might do again. The four novels I refer to are "Bleak House," published in 1852; "A Tale of Two Cities," published in 1859; "Great Expectations," published in 1860; and "Our Mutual Friend," published in 1864. In all of these novels, each of them having a serious and coherent plot, there is this remarkable resemblance— in three of them the key to the plot, the dominant idea, is found in the first chapter, and in the remaining one ("Bleak House ") it is found in the second chapter.

In the first chapter of "Our Mutual Friend" there is the finding of the body of Radford, dressed in John Harmon's clothes; and this incident governs and directs the whole of the novel. In " Bleak House," in the second chapter, is recorded the shock which Lady Dedlock experiences on seeing the handwriting of her early lover in an affidavit, and her evident agitation puts Mr. Tulkinghorn on the trail, and leads to many interesting situations and ultimately to the tragic death of both. In the first chapter of "Great Expecta­tions" the meeting of Pip and Magwitch the convict is the pivot on which the whole of the book turns; whilst in "A Tale of Two Cities" the mysterious message, "Recalled to Life," taken by Jerry Cruncher to Jarvis Lorry, the confidential agent of the banking house of Tellson and Com­pany, who was in the coach on the Dover road, leads up to the recovery by Lucy Manet of her father and to the finding of his manuscript in the Bastille by one of the four Jacques and to its subsequent terrible use, thus paving the way to Sydney Carton's sublime act of substitution for Lucy Manet's husband. Here, again, the subsequent events are foreshadowed in the first chapter. So, in a work in which all is conjecture, the safest plan is to copy the methods we know the novelist to have adopted in previous books—methods which he used so effectively in four such varying works as these just mentioned.

Let us look at the first chapter of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Here we find Jasper in an East-end opium den. Now, in Chapter XXIII which contains the record of his second visit, the old hag says: "What a sweet singer you was when you first came. Used to drop your head and sing yourself off like a bird."

This remark very plainly indicates that he had been there many more times than the two visits mentioned in the book, and this is further confirmed when we find that Jasper tells her that the something he was going to do he had done hundreds of thousands of times in that room. But the action has been so real, the conversation so actual, that he feels afraid he must have given away his secret thought while under the influence of the drug. So he is naturally much reassured, as we find in the first chapter, when, after listening to the hag herself, to the Chinaman, and to the Lascar, he hears that their mutterings are "unintelligible " and that—

"when any distinct word has been flung into the air it has had no sense or sequence."

It is, therefore, to the opium den, to the opium hag, and to the opium pipe, intro­duced as they are in the first chapter, that I look in order to unravel the mystery; and in the use of a chance phrase in Chapter III. I find some, if not a great deal, of confirmation of this idea. I say "chance phrase" because it has little relevancy to the words which follow, and is, indeed, in parenthesis; but no words are chance ones really when a great author is writing a novel with a fixed idea as to what the denouement is to be; they are sure indications of the bent of his mind.

"Thus if I hide my watch when I am drunk I must be drunk again before I can remember where."

Cannot we, with some accuracy, para­phrase this remark and make Dickens say: "If Jasper murder Edwin Drood in fancy many times whilst he is under the influence of opium, he must be under the influence of opium again before he again in fancy can commit the crime." From Jasper's own words the commission of this crime is a relief, for he says to the keeper of the den:—

"When I could not bear my life I came to get the relief, and I got it. It was one! It was one!" This repetition with extraordinary vehem­ence and the snarl of a wolf.

So when the opium-den hag says to Grewgious and Datchery that she had found the secret of mixing the opium so as to make him talk, and explains how and of what he did talk, it is natural they should be struck with the same idea; but it is Datchery who speaks first, and suggests that she should send a letter to Jasper asking him to call there at a certain time. She is then to mix'the opium for him, and, when he is in the proper state, to ask him certain questions which he (Datchery) shall tell her to ask. This, for a consideration, she consents to do, and Jasper is much surprised to receive the following letter: — "Come up and see me the day after to-morrow about six o'clock. I want to have a chat with you, deary. Things is dreffle bad. If you don't come up I shall have to come to hear you sing or call at your rooms on top of them stairs."

It would be paying too great a compliment to Jasper to say that his imperturbability was in no way upset by the discovery of the ring among the remains. It had troubled him very much. Then the superintendent of police, who has always heretofore given him a cheery good-day, now only gives him a curt nod. How did the ring get there? Whose was it? These questions run through his mind all day with wearisome iteration. One thing he knows for certain, and that is that it does not belong to Ned, and this he repeats to himself till he believes it and gets what comfort he can out of it.

He is puzzled, too, at the receipt of the old woman's letter. How does she know his address and what he is? Still, he will go, for it is probably nothing more nor less than an attempt at blackmail.

He will go from Cloisterham that afternoon and have a little rest and change. Little does he think that that very afternoon Grewgious and Datchery are closeted with the superintendent of police and a keen-faced man from headquarters—little does he suspect that the ring, the finding of which gives him a sense of uneasiness he can neither explain nor shake off, has been identified by both Grewgious and Datchery as having been given by the former to Edwin—nor does he suspect that, having been carefully watched, directly he is gone, his rooms are searched, and, underneath a heap of disused clothing in an obscure corner of his wardrobe, a pair of boots have been found which Durdles will swear have been burnt by the action of quicklime.

• • • • • •

The appointed time arrives and Jasper is again at the opium den, where he is welcomed and made much of by the hag. At first he is inclined to resent her letter, but she tells him that he is so unlike the generality of her customers and sings so sweetly that she could not help finding him out. And she triumphantly tells him how she actually heard him singing in the choir and came away without worrying him as a proof of her disinterestedness. So Jasper is appeased and consents to smoke a pipe.

She is somewhat longer in mixing it than usual, but eventually it is ready, and he takes off his shoes, loosens his cravat, and lies upon the bed, with his head resting on his left hand. Then at the right moment, when the drug has begun its work, she beckons towards the door of another room, and there enter Grewgious, the superin­tendent, the man from headquarters, Mr. Crisparkle, Lieutenant Tartar, Neville, and Helena, who group themselves behind Jasper, out of the circle of light shed by the one solitary candle. Datchery comes last and stands by the old woman.

Now, if it was possible for the hag to make Jasper say what he did in Chapter XXIII without any knowledge of how to prompt him to make definite disclosure, what could she not make him say with all the knowledge that Datchery could suggest to her?

What a word-picture of this weird scene Dickens would have given us! The wretched room, the faces of the witch-like old woman and Jasper illuminated by the candle-light, whose feeble rays only serve to make the rest of the dark and gloomy room darker and gloomier; the figure of Datchery as he occasionally whispers a word in the beldam's ear; and the shadowy figures of Grewgious and the rest of them as they bend forward to catch the low tones of the murderer.

At first she reminds him of his previous language, of his "journey," and of the "fellow-traveller," then, on a hint from Datchery, she whispers the word " Ned," at which he sits up violently with such an expression of awful and implacable hatred that even she and Datchery are alarmed. But he does not see them. He only snarls: "Ned! Ned stood in my path—in the path of his 'dear uncle'—his 'dear old Jack'! Ha! Ha! And I killed him— strangled him—strangled him"; accom­panying the action to the words: "There he is—no rival now." He sinks back on the bed again. "The Sapsea vault," she murmurs. He smiles pityingly, and tells with gasps and with struggles, but still clearly enough, how the idea had come to him of concealing the body in the vault when he had seen Sapsea hand the key to the drunken Durdles—laughs heartily as he tells how very drunk and sleepy Durdles had got on the night they went over the cathedral, of how he had taken the keys from him whilst asleep, of how he had gone home and obtained an impression of the key in wax, and of how one of the keys had dropped when he was bending over Durdles' insensible body. Tells of how one night he had transposed sufficient quick­lime from the heap pointed out by Durdles to the vault—tells, with exulting laugh and fiendish expression, how easily he had strangled his nephew, accompanied by terribly realistic action of the performance —tells how he took the watch and chain and pin from the body and threw them in the river—tells of the difficulty he had in bearing his burden to the grave—and concludes in tones in which satisfaction is mingled with triumph, "And now the quicklime has destroyed every trace of humanity, and the secret is mine alone."

But here an interruption occurs which nobody has anticipated. As the murderer proceeds to unfold his tale of villainy Neville has been growing more and more indignant, till at length, remembering all that he suffered through Jasper's fiendish machinations, his indignation reaches boiling-point, and, unable to restrain himself further, he rushes forward, and, seizing Jasper by the throat, half-strangles him, calling him "a cowardly villain." But alas! The opium has been mixed deftly with a view to making Jasper talk but not to send him into a deep sleep. Perhaps, remembering how when he (Jasper) had shaken the Lascar (recorded in the first chapter) that individual had drawn a phantom knife on him; or, perhaps with some intuitive sense of a dangerous motive underlying the hag's letter, he himself has carried a concealed knife to the den, and before anyone can drag Neville off, the knife is plunged into his breast, and he sinks back in the arms of Tartar dead.


Chapter IX

What was to be the Final Evolution of the Story?

First and foremost Jasper must be punished. But would death by the hangman, which he so richly deserved a thousand times over, be an adequate punishment according to the Dickens' ideal? Here is a picture of the man as I conceive Dickens to have meant him to look in the eyes of his readers:—

Of all the villains, wrong-doers, and murderers he presents to us, John Jasper stands out alone, a devil incarnate. Sikes was merely a ruffianly brute, whose one idea of vengeance was to slay. Wicked villain and parricide in intent though Jonas Chuzzlewit was, there is some small grain of retributive justice in his murder of Montague Tigg, swindler and unscrupulous blackmailer. As for Bradley Headstone, he was a very poor bungler, and, personally, I have always felt sorry for him, and have thought that Eugene Wrayburn, who could find no better use for his elegance, his polish, and his education than to goad and taunt an unsophisticated village schoolmaster into madness, deserved some punishment, and was much too well rewarded in winning so splendid a girl as Lizzie Hexam for a wife. But John Jasper!—the uncle who, con­ceiving a passion for his nephew's betrothed, determines upon that nephew's death and plans the details of it while greeting him with honeyed words and eating at table with him—the host who can stand over the sleeping form of his guest, a form full and of virility and of the joy of life, a boy with all the golden visions of youth stretched out in long vista before him, and hungrily count the days which must elapse ere that form shall be dull and lifeless—the guardian who can put maddening drugs into the wine of two hot-headed boys so that they may quarrel and so that one of them may be suspected of the murder of the other, which he himself intends to commit—the man who can forge a key for the opening of a sepulchre, in which the present healthy living shall be hidden when it has become the murdered dead—the choir-master who, with murder in his heart, hearing the solemn words "from battle and murder and from sudden death," can intone with reverent voice "Good Lord deliver us"; and who at the recital of the Commandment "Thou shalt do no murder," melodiously sings, "Lord have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to keep this law." What can we say of such a man but that he is the blackest-hearted villain, the most cunning and the most remorseless murderer ever limned by mortal pen?

If Dickens could paint the sufferings of a low brute like Sikes in such language as this:—

"Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice and hint that Provi­dence must Sleep. There were twenty score of violent deaths in one long minute of that agony of fear"; If he could describe the anguish of so miserable a coward, so terror-stricken a wretch as Jonas Chuzzlewit in these burn­ing words:—

"The raging thirst, the fire that burnt within him as he lay beneath the clothes, the augmented horror of the room, when they shut it out from his view; the agony of listening, in which he paid enforced regard to every sound, and thought the most unlikely one the prelude to the knock­ing which should bring the news; the starts with which he left his couch, and looking in the glass imagined that his deed was broadly written in his face, and lying down and bury­ing himself once more beneath the blankets, heard his own heart beat­ing Murder, Murder, Murder, in the bed," what glowing language would he have used to portray the feelings of a man like Jasper, who had concerted his measures so carefully that he thought himself immune from discovery ? As Jasper sat in the con­demned cell, the place to which his feet had been hurrying him since first he allowed his passions to get the better of his judg­ment; since he allowed his judgment to be sapped and undermined by an insidious drug—what raging, maddening thoughts would rush through his head as he reflected that all his caution, all his calculations, had been nullified by so simple a thing as a ring! "Why did Ned conceal it from me ? " And the answer to this question would be part of his punishment. Edwin had kept the possession of it a secret, because he so thoroughly believed in Jasper's love for him, that he could not bear to worry and vex him by telling him of the broken engagement. Jasper's own hypocritical protestations of a love which did not exist had led to the commission of a dreadful crime. How keen would be his chagrin at such a reflection. Again he would ask, "Why did chance seem to put everything so easily in my way? From the first moment I commenced to think of this murder, every step seemed to be purposely smoothed for me." What a gall­ing thought that Fate had been leading him on through his own evil passions to his ultimate downfall! The very opportunities which had induced him to commit his crime had risen up and mocked him. And the opium—the drug which had enabled him temporarily to forget his daily drudgery—the drug which had given him such golden, glittering visions—the drug under whose influence the commission of his crime had seemed so easy a task—even that had failed him; for at the last it had turned and given him into the hands of his enemies. And yet he had tested it. Had he not carefully listened to the Chinaman, the Lascar, and the hag herself, whilst they were under its influence, and had not all their chatter been "unintelligible"? How could he know that that miserable, ignorant old woman, the keeper of the den, would be shrewd enough to study his temperament, and would thus be able to mix the drug for him in such a way as to make him talk intelligibly? Such thoughts as these would chase each other in maddening medley through his brain day and night, night and day, till the hour of doom arrived. In each and every thought there would be a million reproaches, and in each reproach there would be a death. That was the punishment to which his actual death was as nothing.

• • • • • •

There are many lessons to be learned from a careful and studious perusal of such a book as "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Even he who runs may read if he is on the watch for what is there to teach him. If I have read the character of Jasper aright, as I have earnestly striven to do, he is a type of all that is bad. As in "Oliver Twist" Dickens said—

"I wished to show, in little Oliver, the principle of good surviving through every adverse circumstance and triumphing at last," so, I think, the character of Jasper is the other side of the medal, for he is the per­sonified principle of Evil, who, amidst holy surroundings, begins with dissatisfaction at the routine and monotony of his life, and instead of seeking to vary it by healthy exercise and recreation, takes to noxious drugs that poison the mind as well as the body; continues in envy of his nephew's happier lot, and ends in murder and the gallows.

Dickens always preaches the great human lesson that crime and wrong-doing are necessarily and inevitably followed by punishment. Look at the examples to be found in his books! Fagin dies by the hangman; Sikes hangs himself accidentally in attempting to escape human justice; Bumble and his wife are brought to penury and want and become inmates of the very workhouse in which they had before reigned supreme; Bradley Headstone drowns both Rogue Riderhood and himself, and Silas Wegg is properly rewarded for his terrible treachery and ingratitude; Ralph Nickleby hangs himself in remorse, and his tool Squeers suffers long imprisonment; Quilp is drowned in the slime and ooze of the Thames, and Brass and his sister come to the gutter; Steerforth is drowned near the home he so wantonly wrecked; Jonas Chuzzlewit poisons himself, and Pecksniff and his daughter Charity become street beggars; even Lady Dedlock cannot escape the punishment of her early lapse: she has sinned and therefore must die—she who had been the cynosure of the eyes of the fashion­able world, the adored wife of a doting husband, must die on that step of the loath­some cemetery which poor Joe had so often swept, close to where her early lover was buried. Dennis, the hangman, is him­self hanged, suffering untold anticipatory horrors; Sir John Chester is killed in the duel he so grossly provoked; Carker is crushed to pieces by a railway engine before the man he has so cruelly wronged, and Madame Defarge is killed at the very moment of her triumph. Thus, through all these novels, some of them written at such lengthy intervals, there is always the lesson that inexorable fate punishes the wrong-doer, and there is every reason for thinking that Dickens intended to force the same great truth home, had he lived to finish "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

Mr. Crisparkle is a spendid type of mus­cular Christianity. I have heard it said that Dickens never portrayed a gentleman. To all such I commend a perusal of "Edwin Drood," and especially of Mr. Crisparkle's interview with Mr. Honeythunder. If in him we have not a picture of a true, clean-hearted, Christian gentleman of the sound-mind-in-the-sound-body type, of the man who detests cant and hates hypocrisy, and who fearlessly stands up Tor friends through good or evil report, then I know not where to find one. His life was cast in the same solemn routine as Jasper's, but he sought in healthy and manly exercise the relaxation which Jasper (who could have found it in the same direction) willfully sought in soul-destroying drugs.

And what a beautiful character is Helena! How our hearts go out to her in her transcendent love for her brother I In order properly to appreciate her, we can only conjure up all the best things Dickens ever wrote about good and true women, and combine and crystallize them in Helena. No wonder that the intention of the author was to unite her with Crisparkle; for they are ideal types of the perfect man and the perfect woman.

And as in "Oliver Twist," Dickens wrote against the abuses of our poor-law system, as in "Nicholas Nickleby," he decried the evils of Yorkshire schools, as in "The Old Curiosity Shop" he taught us of the misery that accompanies gambling, and in "Martin Chuzzlewit" graphically showed us the results which follow from selfishness, so I cannot doubt but that in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," mock philanthropy, which had already been severely handled by Crisparkle, in his interview with Honeythunder, would have received still heavier and more damaging blows. Platform philanthropy, philanthropy by resolution, was much in evidence at the time Dickens was writing his last book, and very much needed all the ridicule which his master-hand could shower upon it.

But further we are taught this greatest lesson of all: that in the tracing of crime, the strongest detective is the human con­science. Within every criminal is carried a great detective in his own heart, and that detective hounds him down sooner or later. Whatever Datchery may have done, the final discovery of the crime was made by Jasper's own troubled conscience acting under the operation of the pernicious drug.

————

I hope that the gallant Lieutenant Tartar married Rosa, and that their future life was as bright and unclouded as mortals could desire. I also hope that Bazzard was able, by reason of his experiences as Datchery, to put into the "Thorn of Anxiety" that divine spark of humanity it perhaps needed, and that it was successfully produced, and that, from that time he became more cheer­ful and companionable to Mr. Grewgious; who, as the best of men, deserved the best of clerks; and whose angularity and ungainliness we forget when we remember his geniality, his hospitality, his compassion, and his loving tenderness.

My task is done. "We have but faith, we cannot know, for knowledge is of things we see." I have only written of my belief as to what Dickens meant from my knowledge of what he wrote. D. G. Rossetti said in one of his poems, "Whatever we wish to know, that we shall know some day." How deep a truth underlies these words! Per­haps when the great day comes, when all secrets shall be revealed, and all obscurities made plain, those whose sad hours have been lightened, and whose joyous hours have been made all the more joyful by the pen of the Great Humanitarian, who have seen to what noble uses a gifted writer can devote his intellect, who remember all the evils that he wrote against and checked or utterly destroyed, who reflect how potent such a pen can be in the cause of truth, of love, of justice, and of pity, may one day know, if they " wish to know," the secret of this, his last work.

Finis.